NBA playoffs: Nuggets erase double-digit deficit (again) to take 3-0 lead on Lakers (again)

The Nuggets have won 11 straight games over the Lakers

When you're the Los Angeles Lakers, and your opponent is the Denver Nuggets, déjà vu is the last thing you want. And yet, it's what they got Thursday.

The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 112-105 to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round series, their 11th straight win over LeBron James and Co. No team in NBA playoff history has ever erased a 3-0 lead in a series.

Game 4 is scheduled for Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET in Los Angeles (ABC).

It was a repeat of history in some very unfortunate ways for the Lakers. Obviously, 11 consecutive losses means a lot of repeating, but the Lakers are now one game away from a second straight sweep at the hands of the defending champions. Last year it was in the Western Conference finals, this year it could be much earlier.

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) shoots against Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura (28) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Los Angeles, Thursday, April 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
The Lakers just looked broken in the fourth quarter against the Nuggets. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

More frustrating was how the loss unfolded. For the third time in three games this series, the Lakers jumped out to a double-digit lead then allowed the Nuggets to methodically claw their way back into the game. Los Angeles jumped out to an 8-0 lead to open the game, energizing a Arena crowd that might have understandably entered the game with some dread.

The lead peaked at 12 points early in the second quarter, but was down to four points by halftime. The Nuggets opened the second half with a quick 9-2 run and ended up winning the frame 34-22. By the fourth quarter, the Lakers, and their fans, were approaching the game with an almost funereal tone, though they at least cut the margin to single digits in garbage time.

It's not even like the Nuggets needed a player to go supernova to lead them to victory. Nikola Jokić had a characteristically efficient 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting with 15 rebounds, nine assists and three turnovers.

Jamal Murray had 22 points and nine assists. Aaron Gordon had 29 points and 15 rebounds. Michael Porter Jr. had 20 points and 10 rebounds. That's a normal day at the office for pretty much everyone but Gordon, who was repeatedly left open in the dunker's spot.

Gordon is one of the last players in the NBA you want to leave open in the dunker's spot.

Meanwhile, the Lakers very much needed someone to go supernova, and didn't quite get it. James had 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting, eight assists and five rebounds, while Anthony Davis posted 33 points and 15 rebounds.

The bright side is that Davis improved on his zero-point fourth quarter from Game 2. By three points.

As it turns out, the team that responded to a gut-punch loss in Game 2 by complaining about one missed call in the third quarter wasn't quite ready to change anything against a fully functional defending champion.

And now the task at hand is even more difficult, if their heart is even in it at this point. At the very least, you would hope pride is enough reason to fight against losing 12 straight games to an opponent.