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Red hot Jamal Murray early, Nikola Jokić late lift Nuggets past Lakers to 3-0 series lead

LOS ANGELES — Entering the night down 0-2 in the series, this was a game the Lakers had to have, and everything set up for them through three quarters — Nikola Jokić struggled and was in foul trouble, and Los Angeles survived a Jamal Murray onslaught in the first half, and the Lakers were getting the ball inside and winning the points in the paint battle.

It didn’t matter.

Denver executes better and did it down the stretch. They have shooters everywhere and they trust each other and the system. And when they need it, they have the two-time MVP Jokić who had 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the fourth.

Denver pulled away in the final 12 minutes to win Game 3 119-108 and take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

With one more win, the Nuggets will advance to the franchise’s first NBA Finals (they did make the ABA Finals in 1976). Game 4 is Monday night at the Arena.

The first half was the Jamal Murray show.

At the end of the first quarter, the score was Lakers 20, Jamal Murray 17. However, throw in the other Nuggets and Denver was up by a dozen. The Lakers did not come out with the urgency expected of a team in a must-win game but Murray did. He had 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting — including 4-of-8 from 3 — in the half.

Still, the Lakers only trailed by three at the half thanks to a late 14-4 run. It looked like they had weathered the storm.

The Lakers had the advantage of an off Jokić game through three quarters. Jokić went to the bench with his fourth foul with 7:24 remaining in the third, but the Lakers were only +3 the rest of the quarter. The Nuggets still led by two heading into the fourth. That was a win for Denver.

The Lakers hung around, but the Nuggets sat Gordon to keep shooters on the floor and that clicked in the fourth — plus the Lakers shooters struggled. Denver won the fourth 22-16 and with it the game.

Murray finished with 37, Jokić had 25, Bruce Brown had 15 off the bench and Michael Porter Jr. poured in 14.

Anthony Davis had 28 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Lakers. Both LeBron James and Austin Reaves scored 23.