Mistakes By LeBron James And Anthony Davis Cost The Lakers A Game 2 Loss

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Lakers star pleads for a foul call during the first quarter of the Lakers' 108-103 loss in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. (Wally Scalise / Los Angeles Times)

The bet the Lakers made at the NBA trade deadline in early February was the same one they made in the summer of 2019 when they basically traded everything to create the NBA's most talented pairing.

That gamble, which has paid off with a title and been sidelined by repeated injuries, said as long as the Lakers had Anthony Davis and LeBron James, they would have a shot when the game mattered most.

That's why the Lakers rebuilt their roster, rebuilt their depth, added more scoring and defending, and playmaking. So they are playing in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

But with the crowd waving white towels, chanting “Beat LA” and fueling the No. 1 seeded Nuggets in the fourth quarter, wasn't because James and Davis didn't have enough help.

No, the Lakers lost 108-103 on Thursday because Davis and James could not contain themselves, the Nuggets came back while the Lakers were buried under a wave of momentum that could not be stopped.

When the Lakers needed to get to the rim to help cushion against Denver's surge, James fired back-to-back threes in the fourth quarter. He still hasn't had a this series and hasn't scored one in the fourth quarter since Game 1 against Memphis.

Austin Reeves said, “He can shoot whatever he wants.” “That's LeBron James. … All he wants to do is win.

James scored 22 on 19 attempts, missing all six of his points. Davis scored 18 points on four-of-15 shooting. Reeves scored 22 and Rui Hachimura added 21 off the bench.

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Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, tries to block a shot by Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, tries to block a shot by Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the second half of Game 2. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“If you're not tired after the season…” James said. “Everyone is tired.”

Weary from their combined efforts against Nikola Jokic on one end, the Lakers' two biggest stars were nowhere close to the offensive, rim-hunting combination that nearly stole Game 1. They faltered in one of Game 2's biggest moments.

After the loss, Lakers coach Darwin Hamm said, “We missed some good looks.”

mental errors. Missed shots. Heavy feet. The two players the Lakers needed most made too many mistakes as Denver came back to hold on to home-court advantage,

The Nuggets have yet to lose a playoff game at the ball arena this season after Denver hit seven of 13 in the fourth, including five-straight threes.

Some errors were subtle – Dennis Schroder forced a three with eight seconds left in the third quarter instead of holding for the final shot. All three were blocked, Denver ran in transition and scored on an offensive return from Jokic that was scored by Davis.

There was some head-scratching as James turned a sure-fire two points into a turnover by fumbling the ball away while trying to uncork a two-handed reverse dunk.

“It sucks that the ball got out of my hands,” James said. “…Unexpected turnover. Terrible.”

And Davis couldn't reach the easy buckets that got him into a rhythm for so many playoffs, with half of his losses coming from the free-throw line.

“You can go through a basketball game and you have unlucky plays. I'm sure they can pick a few on their side,” Derwin Hamm said postgame. “So, it was just — you have to have things happen during an NBA game, especially a heated competition like the Western Conference Finals, especially these two teams.

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“So you just have to have a short memory because a mistake happens or a glitch or something like that, you've got to move on.”

Even with the Lakers' stars struggling, they were in position to win before Jamal Murray caught fire in the fourth, his shot-making closing in on the rim for his teammates.

Denver hit seven threes in the fourth. The Lakers only made eight in the entire game.

Reeves said, “He called the shots when he needed to.”

Murray scored 37, 23 in the fourth quarter. Jokic, for the second game in the series, finished with a triple-double, scoring 23 with 17 rebounds and 12 assists.

“We all know one thing about Jamal, man. He just has to see one go in. He's got a little mid-range pull-up to go in, he looks up at the sky and that's all he needs,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “After that, he's shooting at the hula hoop.”

After almost two days of speculation, the Lakers actually made a change to the starting lineup. The Lakers returned Jared Vanderbilt to the first five after Schroder replaced him for the final two games.

Hamm was intentionally reluctant with his decision, refusing to discuss his choice with any specificity after the Game 1 loss. There was speculation that Hachimura would start after his strong second half in Game 1, but Hamm decided to use the group that started the first 11 playoff games for his team.

Vanderbilt started the game over Murray, one of the Game 1 stars for the Nuggets, and his length and rebounding helped the Lakers set the game at their preferred pace.

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray celebrates after hitting a three-pointer in the fourth quarter of Game 2.

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray celebrates after hitting a three-pointer in the fourth quarter of Game 2. (Wally Scalise / Los Angeles Times)

Shot-making, however, was an issue—particularly for Davis. He failed to build on a dominant 40-point Game 1 performance, his shots either not falling or not counting after his first bucket called on the offensive goaltender.

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Davis said, “That's what I see.”

Thankfully the Lakers had Hachimura off the bench, a mid-season , continuing to make Denver pay for their lack of rim protection by going to the basket on nearly every touch. Hachimura did not miss a single shot till the second half, scoring 17 points on seven shots.

This resulted in the Lakers taking an 11-point lead in the first half, which of course could have been higher if it weren't for some unforced errors.

Denver hung around despite repeatedly blowing double-digit leads for the Lakers in the third quarter. But it felt like he should have risen more, had moments of easy points in front of him, and the ball fumbled too often.

And while the Lakers were struggling, Denver was roaring, none louder than their coach.

Before the game, he scolded anyone for thinking the series was over after the Lakers came back in the second half. And after the game, he doubled, with his team now leading 2–0.

Malone said, “You win Game 1 of the playoffs and everybody talks about the Lakers.” something out.' Nobody talked about Nikola and put on a historic performance.

“He's got 13 triple-doubles now, third all-time. What he's doing is incredible. But the narrative wasn't about the Nuggets, the narrative wasn't about Nikola, the narrative was about the Lakers and their adjustment.

“So, you put it in your pipe, you smoke it and you come back and you know what, we're going up 2-0.”

This originally appeared in Los Angeles Times,