Nuggets Fans on Series Win Over Lakers and LeBron's No-Handshake Exit | Westword

Nuggets Fans on Series Win Over Lakers and LeBron's No-Handshake Exit

Nuggets fans on social media definitely noticed.
Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets sent the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James home on Monday night with a 108-106 victory.
Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets sent the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James home on Monday night with a 108-106 victory. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
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Give the Denver Nuggets a hand upon securing a gentleman's sweep over the Los Angeles Lakers 108-106 on April 29? Not if you're Lakers superstar LeBron James, who was caught by cameras stalking off the court rather than offering a single palm slap or bro-hug to the victors after yet another last-second Jamal Murray jumper sent him and his squad on summer vacation.

And Nuggets fans on social media definitely noticed.

Such royal disrespect isn't a new thing for the self-anointed King James — and neither is attempting to steal the spotlight from Denver in a moment of triumph for the franchise. In his post-game remarks, the supreme attention addict refused to dismiss the possibility that he might retire — a prospect so dire that members of the Lakers brain trust told The Athletic they'd be willing to draft LeBron's marginally talented son Bronny James if it might induce him to sign a $51.4 million player extension in the off-season.

Should he do so, he'll have yet another chance to help the Lakers redeem themselves against the they're-your-daddy Nuggets, who managed to eke out another win over L.A. last night, albeit by the barest of margins.

Denver had defeated the Lakers eleven consecutive times prior to their loss in game four on April 29 — a contest the Nugs ceded after their second-half switch-flipping routine proved to be too little too late. But the question of whether any lessons had been learned by their lackadaisical collapse were shoved to the back burner hours prior to tip-off, when reports circulated that Murray was questionable to perform owing to a calf strain.

In the end, head coach Michael Malone allowed Jamal to hit the hardwood (not that he could have prevented him from doing so), and playoffs Murray immediately let it be known that he wasn't going to tiptoe around. He scored Denver's first bucket and plenty more thereafter, ultimately notching 32 points — and every one of them was needed given the challenges ahead.

James was his usual formidable self, seemingly scoring at will every time he was guarded by someone other than Aaron Gordon or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. This scenario became even more problematic after KCP tweaked his ankle, an injury that caused him to limp to the locker room not once, but twice. Caldwell-Pope ultimately returned and stuck around, but he was clearly hampered; he managed only five points and couldn't regularly find the combination on his usual lock-down D. And while Gordon was better on the defensive end, he contributed just seven points.

Fortunately, Michael Porter Jr. excelled again, pouring in 26, and future three-time MVP Nikola Jokić added 25 of his own. But despite falling just one assist shy of another triple double, Nikola was shaky by his own ridiculously high standards, with a shocking seven turnovers — a total that would have only been acceptable had it been the amount committed by the entire team.

Such gaffes plus the usual referee-aided free-throw disparity (L.A. went to the line 27 times to Denver's nine) helped the Lakers secure yet another halftime lead and prevented the Nuggets from pulling away when their offense finally started percolating in the third quarter. This time, though, the Lakers had their own struggles.

None of James's comrades registered more than twenty points, including formidable center Anthony Davis, who lost much of his effectiveness after hurting his shoulder in what looked like a benign bump against Porter under the basket. He wound up with just seventeen points. That left James pretty much on his own down the stretch, and he was mostly magnificent. But Murray and the Nuggets were one bucket better.

Next, Denver will face the Minnesota Timberwolves, who swept the Phoenix Suns out of the tournament with unsettling alacrity. Given how T-Wolves superstar-in-the-making Anthony Edwards is playing, the Nuggets shouldn't count on the sort of domination that allowed them to conquer Minnesota in five games amid their run to the championship last year, particularly if Murray and Caldwell-Pope aren't fully healed by the time round two starts on Saturday, May 4.

By then, the focus should be off LeBron James's display of dubious sportsmanship. But as demonstrated by our picks for the twenty most memorable takes on X, Nuggets Nation won't forget anytime soon.

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