Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (C) totaled 22 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks in a loss to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday in Denver. Photo by Bob Pearson/EPA-EFE
May 19 (UPI) -- LeBron James says the Los Angeles Lakers need to maintain "desperation" and stay on "edge" entering Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, following two losses to the Denver Nuggets to start the series.
The No. 7 Lakers missed a chance to steal home-court advantage from their top-seeded foes with a 108-103 setback Thursday at Ball Arena in Denver. The Lakers led by as many as 11 points, but were outscored 32-24 over the final 12 minutes of Game 2.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven game series will be Saturday in Los Angeles. The Lakers are 7-0 at home since the end of the season, including the play-in tournament and playoffs.
"We still got to play with the same desperation as we did," James told reporters. "We came out with a loss, but it doesn't give us any more comfort. We can't go into any postseason game with comfort, just because you either haven't lost at home or you're going back home.
"I think you've got to be even more on edge."
James totaled 22 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks in Game 2. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray scored a game-high 37 -- including 23 in the fourth quarter -- to spark the comeback win. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic totaled 23 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists.
"Once you see a couple go in, it can get it rolling," Murray said. "I was able to just find a little separation and just rise up over the top and make some shots."
The Lakers outscored the Nuggets 48-46 in the paint and 27-14 off the bench. The Nuggets held a 22-21 edge on fast breaks and 21-13 advantage in points off turnovers.
Both teams scored 27 points in the first quarter. The Lakers started the second with a 9-0 run to take a 36-27 edge. They pushed that advantage to 11 several times before the Nuggets roared back.
The Nuggets went on a 12-2 run to first tighten the score. The Lakers still led 53-48 at halftime. Lakers forward Rui Hachimura scored 11 off the bench in the second quarter.
The Lakers pushed the lead back to 11 for a final time midway through the third. The Nuggets scored 10 unanswered to tie the score late in the third and trailed 79-76 to start the fourth.
Murray sparked a 15-1 run for a 96-84 lead with 5:34 remaining and the Nuggets never trailed again. The Lakers later went on a 12-2 run to cut the deficit to 101-99 with 1:07 remaining, but were outscored 7-4 down the stretch.
Murray made 6 of 7 shots, including 4 of 5 3-pointers, over the final 12 minutes.
Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. scored 16 points in the victory. Nuggets guard/forward Bruce Brown and forward Aaron Gordon scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Lakers guard Austin Reaves scored 22 points. Star center Anthony Davis chipped in 18 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and four blocks in the loss. Hachimura scored 21 for the Lakers.
The Lakers will host the Nuggets at 8:30 p.m. EDT Saturday in Los Angeles. The winner of the series will meet the No. 8 Miami Heat or No. 2 Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. The Heat lead the Eastern Conference finals 1-0. Game 2 is Friday in Boston.
St. Vincent-St. Mary High School senior LeBron James (L) drives around a Zanesvuille defender in Akron, Ohio, on February 14, 2003. James is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. A couple months later, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach was suspended
because James worked out with the team before he graduated from high school. Photo by Tom Cammett/UPI | License Photo