Jamal Murray is not afraid of the big moment. Although he was still dealing with a calf strain, Murray refused to sit for Game 5, opting to play through the issue to give the Denver Nuggets the best chance of completing a gentleman’s sweep. 

Boy, did Murray deliver. He led all scorers in the game with 32 points, three rebounds, seven assists and a steal. He hit the most important shot of the series at the end of Game 5, making a game-winning shot over an outstretched Austin Reaves that put an end to the Lakers’ hopes of trying to pull off the comeback from a 0-3 deficit.

It was his second game-winner of the series after also hitting the sick shot over Anthony Davis to end things in Game 2. 


Those two winners have added more to the lore of Murray’s career with the Nuggets. He was the key second option just behind Nikola Jokic in their title-winning run last year, and it looks like he’s ready to contribute more of the same.

Speaking of Jokic, the Serbian superstar was at his best again in Game 5. He had a monster game and just missed a triple-double with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists. He also shot 12 of 21 from the field and came up big in the fourth quarter to help give Murray the opportunity to win the game.

Michael Porter Jr. had another great scoring nigh as well. He was red-hot from the field, making 8 of 12 total shots and 5 of 7 threes on the way to 26 points, four rebounds, one assist and two steals. A lot of those shots were in the second half.


Aaron Gordon once again didn’t score much, with only seven points for the game, but there is no doubt that he was another crucial piece to the Nuggets’ victory. He added 13 boards, six assists, a steal and a block, including a huge offensive board with the Nuggets down one point.

It’s a rough day for LeBorn James, who again had a great game with 30 points, nine rebounds, 11 assists and four steals while shooting 11 of 21 from the field. All of the rest of the starters also scored in double figures, with Anthony Davis having a double-double of 17 points, 15 rebounds and four assists. 

Davis did hurt himself in what seemed to be an innocuous collision with Porter Jr., though, which hampered his effectiveness later in the game.

The Lakers certainly had plenty of opportunities to win the game. Conspiracy theorists will point to the Lakers’ 27-9 advantage in free throw attempts. They missed as many free throws as the Nuggets took (18 of 27), keeping up with the theme that the Lakers get way more free throws than their opponents. Considering that the 108-106 final scoreline, those missed free throws will haunt James and the rest of the Lakers all summer.

James, Davis, D’Angelo Russell, and Darvin Ham have a lot of questions to answer over the offseason. Ham may not make it much longer as head coach, Russell is likely to opt out of his player option, while James and Davis will once again be trying to figure out how they can outdo the Nuggets and the other rising teams in the Western Conference like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans. 

The Lakers will also have to contend for playoff spots with teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings (who swept them 4-0 in their regular season series), and the LA Clippers. That’s not even mentioning wildcard teams like the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzleis (if Ja Morant comes back with a vengeance), and San Antonio Spurs, assuming Victor Wembanyama continues his upward ascent and they find him a proper point guard.

It does feel like the end of an era in the NBA though. This will be the first time that the superstar trio of James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have all failed to advanced past the first round since 2005.