Nuggets’ defense, Jamal Murray’s late flurry stifle Lakers in Game 2

Much has been made of the Los Angeles Lakers’ defense in these playoffs, and rightfully so. But the Denver Nuggets proved Thursday night that they also have some D in their DNA.

The Nuggets, despite falling behind by as many as 11, kept their home playoff record unblemished and took a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers led by three early in the fourth quarter, but the combination of Jamal Murray on fire and the Nuggets contesting nearly all of LA’s shots gave Denver a 32-24 lead over the final 12 minutes. Bruce Brown stripping LeBron James of the ball as he came up the court in the final seconds was an appropriate grace note.

“We’re proud of our fourth-quarter defense,” Michael Porter Jr. said.

Murray, after struggling through the first three quarters, hit one big three after another late to finish with a game-high 37 points. Murray missed seven of his first nine 3s, but made four of five in the fourth quarter while pouring in 23 points.

Statistics to know: James went 0-for-6 from 3-point range, including 0-for-4 in the second half.

Game Play: Murray’s triple with 9:21 left in the fourth quarter and Nikola Jokic resting on the bench gave Denver its first lead, 84-83, since the first quarter.

Next for the Nuggets: The Nuggets won 2-0 against the Phoenix Suns and returned to Denver with the series tied. Coach Mike Malone suggested his team forgot to pack its defense for the trip. Playing the level of defense they showed in Game 2 will be key to giving Los Angeles a chance.

Next for the Lakers: The team’s two biggest stars, James and Anthony Davis, were underwhelming. Davis missed 11 of his 15 shots for a quiet 18 points and James threw the ball out of bounds on a breakaway attempt and drained a reverse layup in the final minutes. They should be bigger factors in Game 3. Bright spot: Rui Hachimura was 8-of-10 for 21 points.

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Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young-onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds”. He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @Rick Bucher.

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