The Lakers finally beat the Nuggets and get a 'lifeline' with a Game 4 win

LOS ANGELES — Bright purple and gold streamers flew down from the ceiling of Crypto.com Arena on Saturday, signaling the Los Angeles Lakers' 119-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets to keep their first-round series alive. First win over Denver in nearly 500 days.

Snapping an 11-game losing streak against the defending champions is certainly a better alternative than missing out on the playoffs for the second straight year.

Still, up 3-1 in the series, the Lakers will still enter Monday's Game 5 on the brink of elimination.

“Well, the only chance we have is to play the next game,” said LeBron James, who scored 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. “We've given ourselves another life. We've given ourselves another lifeline, this is a game series for us.”

No team in NBA history has ever won a best-of-seven playoff series from a 3-0 deficit. Again, no team in league history has trailed 3-1 in the NBA Finals more than the 73-win Golden State Warriors before James' Cleveland Cavaliers broke the record in 2016.

“Monday's game is the most important game of the season for us, we understand that, we know that, so at that point where you lose, you're done,” James said. 19 with elimination scenarios. “You win, you keep going.”

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The start of the series tested team cohesion — forward Anthony Davis and head coach Darwin Hamm exchanged public shots between Games 2 and 3 and the ghost of D'Angelo Russell's playoff past resurfaced Thursday when he went scoreless for 0. -7 shooting — Game 4 echoed the playoff slogan printed on the yellow rally towels handed out at the arena: It took everybody.

‚ÄúThat unity, that development, everything we discussed [Friday] About being one, you know, it's a beautiful day to be alive for the sake of being alive,” Hamm said. “It's yesterday's news and today's news. A win in just one game. We have to refocus, regroup and take that same mindset to Denver.”

Davis was outstanding Saturday, tying career playoff highs with 25 points, 23 rebounds and six assists on 11-of-17 shooting. For the series, he's averaging 30.5 points on 62.2% shooting and 15.8 rebounds, mostly matching two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who dominated Game 4 with 33 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists.

“AD doesn't have to prove anything to anybody,” James said. “He's one of the best bigs we have in the game, one of the best bigs in the world. He's showing that again through the first four games.”

Russell outplayed Nuggets star guard Jamaal Murray, scoring 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting with a plus-15 rating, while Murray scored 22 points on 9-for-23 shooting with a minus-3 rating.

Hamm sticks with Russell in the starting lineup, unlike last year when he was benched in Game 4 of the conference finals. He told Russell how confident he was going into Saturday.

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“I mean, I appreciate it, but I just believe in myself more than anybody,” Russell said of Hamm's confidence. “I don't need it, but I appreciate it.”

The question now is whether LA believes it can replicate this success in Game 5 after doing everything well on Saturday. Lakers outrebound Denver 46-40; They outscored the Nuggets 14-5 in second chance points; They dominated the paint battle 72-52; They built a double-digit lead in the second quarter and never let it fall below seven in the second half; They led 13-5 in bench scoring; And after scoring 31 points in the third quarter through the first three games, they kept the momentum going with Denver 32-30 in Game 4.

“We have a lot of confidence in our team,” Davis said. “We've had a lot of leads in this series. In the second half where we weren't, really our third quarters, we just couldn't execute on shooting the basketball. So our confidence was never lost. At any point in the game.”

The Lakers, who went from winning the postseason in December to 13th in the West in January, had to struggle through the last few months of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs. One more game to play.

“I want us to win 4-0,” Austin Reeves [21 points, six assists] said. “The odds are not stacked in our favor. But any time we can float above water, we have a chance to do something great. And we're up for the challenge.”

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