Lakers eliminated by Nuggets in Game 5 after Jamal Murray’s buzzer-beater

Bidyu Contributor
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Could this be LeBron James’ final game for the Lakers?
The Lakers’ season came to an end on Monday night with a heartbreaking 108-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Game 5 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series. This defeat leaves James, 39, with the option to decline his $51.4-million contract for next season.

James’ decision will reveal more about his priorities at 39 than it will about the state of the Lakers. In his six seasons with the team, they have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs twice and failed to qualify twice more. The franchise now sits four seasons removed from their NBA bubble championship.
Despite the Lakers’ storied name, their performance hasn’t matched their reputation. Their Game 5 loss was a bitter pill to swallow, as Nuggets guard Jamal Murray sank a 14-foot jumper over Austin Reaves with just four seconds left.
“First of all, tip your hat to them,” James said. “Defending champions. They’re a great team. Super-well coached and made the plays down the stretch to win the series. You give credit where credit is due, that’s for sure.”
The fact that the Lakers were even in a position to push the series to a sixth game was unexpected, especially after Anthony Davis’ injury earlier in the game.
About a minute into the second half, with the Lakers leading by six points, Davis collided with Michael Porter Jr. and went down clutching his left shoulder. Although he continued to play, he was clearly not at full strength.
With about three minutes left in the third quarter, Davis left the court for the locker room. When he returned for the fourth quarter, the Lakers were trailing 81-79. Despite his compromised condition, Davis finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
The Lakers’ starters all scored 14 or more points, with James leading the way with 30 points. Austin Reaves added 19, Rui Hachimura had 15, and D’Angelo Russell contributed 14.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our crew despite everything that happened,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Obviously, the series didn’t go in our favor, didn’t start the way we wanted it to, but to win that one at home, fight tooth and nail today to get this one, our guys showed a lot of guts and a lot of character and that resilience to continue to fight.”
The game showed early signs that it would not follow the pattern of the previous four. For the first time in the series, the Nuggets led after the first quarter, with Murray scoring 12 points to give his team a 28-24 lead.
Playing with a dark blue wrap on his injured leg, Murray had a game-high 32 points, a stark contrast to his performance in the previous four games, where he shot only 38%.
In retrospect, the series mirrored the Lakers’ entire season — moments of hope followed by despair, then a glimmer of optimism dashed by the return of despair.
Last season, the Lakers overcame a lackluster regular season to reach the Western Conference finals, which led management to keep the core of the team intact. This season, however, there was no such redemption to mask their flaws.

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