By Jovan Buha, Nick Kosmider and Tony Jones

The Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-103 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals at home on Thursday behind a strong second-half shooting performance, taking a 2-0 lead in the series. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Jamal Murray led the way with 37 points – 23 of them in the fourth quarter – on 11-24 shooting, six 3s. Nikola Jokic posted a 23-point, 17-rebound, 12-assist outing, tied for third all-time in triple-doubles per game (13).
  • LeBron James and Austin Reaves each scored 22 points to pace the Lakers. Rui Hachimura added 21 off the bench, helping the Lakers to a five-point halftime lead.
  • Los Angeles went 23-of-26 from the free throw line while Denver was 16-of-18.
  • Game 3 is Saturday at 8:30 p.m. in Los Angeles.

The athleticsQuick analysis:

The fix pays for the Nuggets fraction

Nuggets coach Michael Malone traded Jokic for the offseason and cost Denver. Normally, the two-time MVP rests early in the fourth quarter. With the Nuggets trailing 79-76 entering the final period, Malone was elected to leave Jokic on the floor. Jokic’s presence, drawing so much attention from Los Angeles’ defense, helped spark an all-time fourth-quarter flurry from Murray, who had 23 points in the period.

When Jokic went down with the Nuggets down by two at the 9:38 mark of the fourth quarter, Murray’s warm-up was well underway, helping Denver win without its superstar center. Denver’s late scoreless win from Jokic was a testament to Murray’s performance and Denver’s determination in Game 2. Kosmidr

As important as Game 2 is, Malone squeezed the rotation slightly for the first time in the postseason. He played nine men when he normally played eight. But Reggie Jackson played just three minutes — due to a foul trouble with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — and starter Christian Brown played just over four minutes. Jeff Green played 15 minutes but this was a six-man game with Bruce Brown playing 37 minutes off the bench.

Jokic played the entire third quarter and went into the fourth quarter for the first time. Malone said he made that decision because the Lakers went on a 10-0 run in non-Jokic minutes in the second quarter. “We were tired at the end of the game,” Murray said. “We can tell they’re tired.” – Jones

LA adjusts to mixed results

LA changed its starting lineup after two disastrous periods in Game 1. The new team — the regular lineup of Anthony Davis, James, Jared Vanderbilt, Reaves and D’Angelo Russell — was better, but still outscored by three points in 14 minutes. Per, the Lakers put James on Jokic for the third quarter and the fourth quarter, which worked well, with James playing a key role as the two-time MVP shot 9-of-21.

The Lakers had no answer for Murray, though, as he scored 23 of those points in the fourth quarter. As Hachimura and Dennis Schroder checked him, Murray wobbled with pick-and-rolls and dripped takedowns. His shots on multiple defenders were exceptional – and the difference maker in the game. – Flea

Lakers running on empty

By the time this game passed, the Lakers appeared gassed, the cumulative effect of a two-month surge — LA essentially played at playoff-like intensity for eight straight weeks before the play-in game — toward the conference finals. Add in the day-to-day nature of the past two rounds, elevation, Denver’s uptempo style of play, the whirlwind two-man play of Jokic and Murray, and the Lakers had a little left in the tank going into the Nuggets. The fourth. They get away with point-blank shots at the rim and wide-open 3s that they can normally make in the game. They were late to rebounds and rebounds. With their season in Game 3 — no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit — they have 48 hours to make up for their fatigue. – Flea

A winning statement in Denver?

The chip on the Nugget’s shoulder is as wide as any outdoors. Now, with a 2-0 lead, Malone questioned the national narrative that the Lakers “found something” in Tuesday night’s Game 1 loss. “We don’t want the media attention,” Jokic said, but the Nuggets were upset that their Game 1 win wasn’t the story from Game 1. It was encouraging, but definitely played a role.

Now, Denver turns its attention to Saturday’s Game 3, where a win would give the Nuggets a stranglehold on the series. – Jones

The highlight of the game

Key statistics

Jokic became the first player in NBA postseason history with four straight 20-point triple-doubles. By ESPN Stats & Info. He scored 34 points in Game 1, 32 in Game 6 against Phoenix and 29 in Game 5.

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(Photo: Ron Chenoy / USA Today)

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