Jamal Murray hits 2nd game winner as Nuggets sink Lakers

DENVER – Jamal Murray overcame a strained left calf, management suggested he drop that and another Los Angeles Lakers haymaker to score 32 points and sink the game-winner with 3.6 seconds left Monday evening.

That sent LeBron James to his first playoff outing and the Denver Nuggets staggered into the second round with a 108-106 victory in a Game 5 that featured 16 lead changes and 10 ties and was not assured until the Taurean Prince’s half-court heave failed over time. expired.

“Thanks to the Lakers, they gave us a great series,” said Murray, who also scored the franchise’s first playoff buzzer-beater in Game 2 of the Western Conference first-round series.

“Those are the shots you dream about when you’re little,” said Murray, who called this one “a little bit better.”

The Nuggets point guard is the first player in the last 25 seasons to make multiple go-ahead shots in the final 5 seconds of a single playoff series, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He is the fourth player to do so multiple times in a single playoff series.

Without his dogged determination – and defiance – Murray would never have had the chance to seal the series.

“I came in a little early today to see if I could go, and I felt like I could and they just didn’t want me to take the risk,” said Murray, who warmed up with an ice pack attached. to his injured calf. “They told me no. They told me no.

“And I didn’t say no. I didn’t want to leave my teammates out,” added Murray, who missed 23 games due to injury in 2023-24. “We fought all season. Everyone gets hurt at some point, everyone goes through something, and I just couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t able to play this game.

“I’m just glad that they listened to me – and listened to me by listening to my body – and just trusted me.”

James’ two free throws tied it at 106 with 26 seconds left, and the Nuggets, just as they did in Game 2, avoided the timeout. Murray took the ball on a high screen-and-roll to his left, shaking Austin Reaves as he crossed the lane and spinning the 14-footer.

“This kid is a warrior, man,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “The bigger the moment, the more the child continues to shine.”

Nikola Jokic, who committed an uncharacteristic seven turnovers, narrowly missed his 19th triple-double in the playoffs with 25 points, 20 rebounds and 9 assists, and Michael Porter J. scored 26.

James had 30 points and 11 assists, and Anthony Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds, but appeared bothered throughout the sequence after banging his left shoulder against Porter in the second half.

The Nuggets advanced to face the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round starting next weekend. This series begins in Denver, where the Nuggets are the best in the conference with a 36-8 record, including 3-0 in the playoffs.

Not that it was easy.

The Nuggets have been down for about three-quarters of the minutes this series, they’ve struggled through long stretches of shooting, and they’re a banged-up group that can definitely use the rest.

“First of all, take your hat off to them,” James said. “Defending champions. They’re a great team. Super well coached and they made plays down the stretch to win the series. You give credit where credit is due, that’s for sure.”

Davis matched Murray’s 16 points in the first half and the Lakers led 53-50 at halftime. They pushed that advantage to nine points, but the Nuggets closed on a 21-10 run to take an 81-79 lead in a tight fourth quarter until the buzzer.

The Nuggets, who swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals last summer en route to the franchise’s first NBA championship, beat the Lakers for the 12th time in their last 13 meetings.

The only other time James was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs was in 2021, when the Phoenix Suns beat Los Angeles in six games.

That makes it the shortest of James’ 17 trips to the playoffs, despite the Lakers putting the defending champions on the verge of five games.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our team despite everything that’s happened,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham, who will certainly be in the hot seat. “Obviously the series didn’t go in our favor, it didn’t start the way we wanted, but to win that one at home and fight tooth and nail today to get this one, our guys showed a lot of courage and a lot of character.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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