Anthony Davis buried a buzzer-beating three-pointer to win game three of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals, denying a trademark Denver Nuggets comeback to take a 3-0 series lead.
The Nuggets have made a habit of making comebacks in the playoffs this season, recovering from 3-1 series deficits both the Utah Jazz and LA Clippers, but Davis and the LA Lakers are proving to be the most difficult obstacle they’ve faced.
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Led by Davis and LeBron James, the Lakers jumped out to a lead that ballooned up to 16 points at certain stages, before the Nuggets once again dug their heels in.
Nuggets center Nikola Jokic scored his team’s final 12 points, capped by a baby hook to give Denver a one-point lead with 20.8 seconds remaining.
But a wild final possession that saw three game-winning attempts from the Lakers ended with a clutch Davis triple and a 105-103 win that felt like a death blow.
Davis finished with 31 points, nine rebounds and two assists, while superstar teammate LeBron James scored 26 points of his own.
Jokic’s fourth quarter heroics weren’t enough to lift the Nuggets to victory as the Serbian big man finished with 30 points, six rebounds and nine assists, while guard Jamal Murray had 25.
All the attention after the game was on Anthony Davis, with fans, players and media alike going buts over the shot on social media.
Anthony Davis with the game-winning 3-point shot!!— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) September 21, 2020
What a moment for Anthony Davis. Awful breakdown by Plumlee on the last play. Give me more AD vs Joker in crunch time please, what a delight— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) September 21, 2020
Anthony Davis confirms he yelled "Kobe" after his shot. "Obviously we're wearing the jerseys, he's hit countless shots like that to win games."— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) September 21, 2020
Nuggets: Up 1 with 2.1 seconds remaining— kupaloid (@kuya_gio) September 21, 2020
Anthony Davis: pic.twitter.com/bMIgOeABzy
"That's a shot Kobe Bryant would hit," Frank Vogel says of Anthony Davis's game-winning shot.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) September 21, 2020
The league really let LeBron James get Anthony Davis on his team lmaooooooooooooooooooo— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) September 21, 2020
Frank Vogel deemed the game-winner Anthony Davis hit as “The Mamba Shot” after going up 2-0. 💜💛— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) September 21, 2020
Denver’s latest NBA comeback falls short against Lakers
The Nuggets played with the same desperation that served them in a pair of 3-1 series comebacks against the Utah Jazz and L.A. Clippers in previous rounds, only this time their comeback fell heartbreakingly short.
They must find that resuscitative energy again, now after the most crippling loss of a dramatic playoff run.
And they will have to do it opposite Davis and LeBron James, who traded halves torching Denver on Sunday.
James scored 12 of his 26 points in the opening quarter, staking the Lakers to an early double-digit lead, and Davis scored 12 of his 31 points in the third quarter, expanding that lead to as much as 16 points.
But the Nuggets never quit, the hallmark of their improbable postseason.
Jamal Murray led the charge in chipping away at the Lakers’ lead, scoring nine of his 25 points during a comeback that spanned the third and fourth quarters. His driving reverse layup gave Denver an 87-86 lead with 7:26 remaining in the game.
The Lakers responded with three consecutive threes from Danny Green, Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, each more unlikely than the last, to regain the lead and pad the cushion. A step-back Davis three pushed their advantage to 100-92 with three minutes on the clock, an edge that felt insurmountable.
But no lead is safe against this Denver team. Jokic scored the game’s next nine points over the ensuing two minutes, culminating in a brilliantly skilled tip-in of a Murray missed three just before the shot clock expired.
Lakers’ LeBron James on close relationship w/ Anthony Davis: “I’m happy to be here with him to give him any advice or for him to lean on me. To be completely honest, in the second half, s—, I leaned on him and he brought us home.” pic.twitter.com/sbAS7iv0Wv— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) September 21, 2020
That gave Denver a 101-100 lead with 31 seconds to go. Davis answered five seconds later with a floater, and it took Jokic six seconds to back down Davis and put the Nuggets up 103-102 with the shot clock off.
On the final Lakers possession, Alex Caruso missed a wide-open three at the top of the key. The rebound found Green on the baseline, where Murray blocked his game-winning attempt out of bounds with 2.1 on the clock. The Lakers did not have a timeout to call. They ran Davis to the left arc, where Mason Plumlee inexplicably went underneath a loose James screen and Jerami Grant did not help off the four-time MVP, leaving Davis wide open. Jokic sprinted to challenge but could not prevent Davis from getting a clean look.
The buzzer beater marks a signature playoff moment in the career of a future Hall of Famer. Davis pushed for a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans to L.A. for this very opportunity and seized it with a death grip.
With Yahoo Sports US/Ben Rohrbach