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The Lakers avoided a sweep. Can they steal Game 5 in Denver?

Denver Nuggets center DeAndre Jordan was walking down the hallway when he saw Anthony Davis’ father standing outside the Los Angeles Lakers locker room.

Flashing a smile, Jordan approached Anthony Davis Sr.

“He didn’t have to do that to us tonight,” Jordan said as Davis’ father laughed.

With the Lakers trailing 3-0 in their first-round playoff series and in danger of being eliminated, Davis produced his third 20-20 performance of the season and first in the playoffs, finishing with 25 points and 23 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a 119-108 victory. in Game 4 at Crypto.com Arena on Saturday.

The Lakers ended their 11-game losing streak against the Nuggets and avoided being swept by them in back-to-back playoffs, following their quick dismantling by the Nuggets in the 2023 Western Conference Finals.

It was a huge relief for Davis, who said he had a bitter taste in his mouth all last summer. When asked if he had a discussion with LeBron James about not allowing that for it to happen again, he said words were not necessary.

“I just think there was a feeling in the room from the film session yesterday,” Davis said. “It sucks to get swept away. Nobody wants that feeling, especially in the summer. You have to have that feeling for the rest of the summer.”

The Lakers might have avoided the proverbial broomstick embarrassment, but they still have an incredibly steep path ahead of them. No team in NBA history has ever recovered from a 3-0 series deficit.

Considering the Lakers hadn’t beaten the Nuggets in 499 days, putting together this type of run seems unlikely. That being said, the Lakers did something Saturday that they haven’t been able to do in this series: maintain their lead.

The Lakers lost an advantage of 12 points in the first game, 20 points in the second game, and 12 points in the third game. Their kryptonite? Third quarters. So while they led by as many as 13 points in the first half, it seemed like the fans were holding their breath as they took the field again after halftime.

But the Lakers pushed their advantage to as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter and never trailed. The biggest difference was that Davis and James finally received help. D’Angelo Russell, who was 0 for 7 in Game 3, had 21 points, four rebounds and four assists. And Austin Reaves scored 21 points and had six assists.

This series shouldn’t be as lopsided as it is, considering the Lakers have led for 136 minutes and 31 seconds, while the Nuggets have only been ahead for 41 minutes and 53 seconds.

Every third quarter except Saturday, the Lakers seemed baffled and stunned that the reigning NBA champions, who boast a two-time MVP in Nikola Jokić and a playoff superstar in Jamal Murray, emerged from their locker room with a sense of urgency.

This time around, the Lakers showed such energy, being outscored only 32-30 during the period that marked their fall. Lakers coach Darvin Ham attributed the difference to concentration.

“I’m not stagnant,” Ham said. “Let’s just keep our pace going, keep making stops. We got a bunch of dominant saves and then we got some timely saves. They hit some tough shots, got a few. And we didn’t head down.”

It would have been a bit of a shame if the Lakers had been swept considering the performances of James and Davis in these playoffs.

James continued to defy the clock, finishing with 30 points in Game 4, including 14 in the fourth quarter. He entered Game 4 averaging 26.3 points, 9.7 assists and 6.7 rebounds in the playoffs.

As for Davis, he averaged 30.5 points and a playoff career-high 15.7 rebounds against Jokic this round. And on Saturday, he aggressively attacked the paint, dunking, finishing and using force to impose his will on both ends of the court.

“I don’t think AD has anything to prove to anyone,” James said. “He’s one of the best major players we have in the game, one of the best major players in the world. And he showed that again in the first four games.”

Just ask Jordan, who was so impressed with Davis that he had to stop his father in a hallway.

Meanwhile, Davis’ father patiently waited to congratulate his son, who played a career-high 76 games this season and helped shed the injury-prone narrative that has plagued him.

Today, an even greater challenge awaits him.

Whatever happens, at least he’ll have a better taste in his mouth after Saturday.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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Anthony Davis

the Los Angeles Lakers

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