The Denver Nuggets prepare for the Los Angeles Lakers facing a 2-0 deficit in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday night at AdventHealth Arena near Orlando.
A series deficit is par for the Nuggets’ course this postseason.
The Nuggets have been the king of comebacks in their two earlier series this postseason, rallying from 3-1 deficits to advance at the expense of Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers in the first two rounds.
“We’re a group of guys that hate to lose,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
The Nuggets lost 126-114 in Game 1 of the best-of-seven and came within seconds of a get-even win in Game 2, falling 105-103 when Anthony Davis buried a contested 3-pointer just before the final horn.
The back-to-back wins give the top-seeded Lakers a 2-0 lead in a playoff series for the first time since 2012, when they still needed seven games to discard Denver in the first round.
The Lakers haven’t lost a best-of-seven in which they led 2-0 since the 1969 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.
The last time Denver moved on after falling behind 2-0 was in 1994 in the memorable best-of-five, first-round matchup with Seattle. The Nuggets were the No. 8 seed and the SuperSonics were No. 1.
Malone left the court Sunday night believing another comeback remained a possibility.
“Some guys like to win, some guys hate to lose,” he said. “One thing I know about our group: Even though we are disappointed, frustrated, angry, we’ll use that motivation to come out and try to take Game 3.”
The Nuggets’ biggest improvements from Game 1 to Game 2 came on the defensive end, where they limited the Lakers to 44.6 percent shooting overall and 36.1 percent on 3-pointers after getting scorched for 53.0 percent overall and 44.6 percent on threes in the opener.
Denver forced 24 turnovers in the rematch after just 12 in Game 1.
An area of concern remains the defensive boards. The Lakers corralled 13 offensive rebounds in Game 2, including one by guard Danny Green in the final seconds to make Davis’ dramatic hoop possible.
Davis has been the series’ Most Valuable Player through two games, averaging 34.0 points. He is 23-for-44 from the field and 19-for-22 from the free throw line.
Superstar teammate LeBron James wished just one thing had been different about Davis’ game-winner in Game 2.
“I wish we were playing at Staples (Center),” he said of the Lakers’ home floor. “It probably would have blew the roof off. I would have loved to have that moment.”
The Nuggets’ best counter to Davis has come from Nikola Jokic at 25.5 points per game in the series. He’s gone 17-for-34 from the field and 16-for-19 from the line.
Denver was able to flip the Lakers’ Game 1 advantage in free throws, getting 14 more opportunities than the Lakers (33-19) in Game 2 after shooting nine fewer in the opener (37-28).
Jamal Murray, who finished with 25 points in Game 2, doubled his trips to the foul line in the rematch, going 7-for-8 after a 4-for-4 opener.
Game 4 is scheduled for Thursday.
–Field Level Media