The Game 2 victory was fueled by media attention for the Lakers
Head coach Michael Malone and the Nuggets fueled by the pre-Game 2 narrative that the Los Angeles Lakers had found the cheat code to beat Denver
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In the build-up to Thursday’s Game 2, Los Angeles has been the talk of the media relentlessly, moving Rui Hachimura to two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, leaving the seven-footer Anthony Davis floating in the lane as a rim protector.
Malone said the Nuggets they were scratching their heads wondering how they missed some key facts: Denver won, scoring 132 points, and Jokic had one of the all-time conference finals records with 34 points, 21 rebounds, 14 assists and two blocks.
“I think a lot of our guys, to be honest, they may or may not recognize it, you win the first game. [Western Conference Finals]and everybody was just talking about the Lakers,” Malone said Thursday night before the team travels to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Saturday night.
“Let’s be honest, it was the national narrative that, hey, the Lakers are good. They were down 1-0, but they figured something out. Nobody was talking about Nikola, he just had a historic performance. Now he has 13 triple-doubles, third all-time . What he does is just incredible. But that’s not what the narrative was about Nuggets, the story was not about Nikola. The narrative was about the Lakers and their adjustments
“You put it in your pipe, smoke it and come back and you know what, we go 2-0..”
Jokic had his fourth straight playoff triple-double — 23 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists — in Game 2. Malone said he isn’t wasting time wondering if the narrative in national media circles will be different after the Nuggets He leads the series 2-0
“I don’t care if it is because we know our narrative in that locker room. We know we’re not done,” Malone said. “We haven’t done anything yet. You have to win the game on the other team’s home field if you really want to do something in a series. We know how great this team is, especially on their home field.
“We’re not celebrating. It’s not a reason to celebrate. It’s a reason to keep digging and finding ways to be better.”
LeBron James has never lost the third game of a series with his team down 2-0. The Lakers spent considerable energy trying to keep him Nuggets less than 45 percent shooting at home, but a 10-0 third-quarter run and Jamal Murray’s fourth-quarter heroics had the Lakers heading home in an 0-2 hole.
“What we’re taking out of it is the fact that it’s not the NCAA Tournament, it’s the first team to win four games. We have an opportunity to go home and play great basketball and hold serve,” James said. “Until a team gets beat four times, there’s always an opportunity to come out of it. So that’s the confidence we need to have. I know it’s going to be tough to climb, but we still have an opportunity to play good basketball and play the best basketball of the series in Game 3.”
The Lakers are undefeated at home in the 2023 playoffs. Both home games of the regular season were won by the Nuggets with two digits
“We’ve got to buckle down and buckle up and buckle down and buckle up because we planned for this to be a long streak,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Hats off to them. They held their own on their home floor. No disrespect to Memphis or Golden State, but this team has been at the top of the food chain for a reason, not just this year, but the last few years. We certainly had our work cut out for us, but this will make us better than ever and we will return to our home ground.”
— Field Level Media