The Denver Nuggets must really like being down 3–1.
On Thursday night, they became the first NBA team — and will likely remain the only team for at least a very, very long time — to go down 3–1 three separate times in the same playoff run.
Not that it was an academic win for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, however. The game was tight throughout before the Lakers came up with a huge three-and-a-half minute defensive stand at the end of the fourth quarter to seal it 114–108.
Here are a few takeaways from the game:
All eyes on Murray
After Jamal Murray‘s performance in Game 3 — 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in 48 minutes — Nuggets head coach Mike Malone and Nikola Jokic both called him a “superstar,” and a bunch of national media seemed to agree. That’s as big a “reading his own press clippings” trap as there ever was. But it didn’t seem to affect Murray at all.
He started 3-for-3 for six points in the game’s first four minutes en route to 32 in the game.
Anything you can do…
Yes, Murray is a superstar. But the Lakers have two of those, too, and one of them came out of the gate even hotter than the guard from Kitchener, Ont. Anthony Davis scored the Lakers’ first 10 points, and started the game hitting his first seven shots.
Throughout the night, the Nuggets threw several defenders at him — from Jokic to Mason Plumlee to Paul Millsap — but none of them had much success. And when the Nuggets doubled, Davis found a couple of open shooters, leading to one clean early LeBron James look that resulted in three points.
He also had a hand in keeping Jokic’s contributions low, putting him in foul trouble and getting to the line a ton. Davis finished with 34 points on only 15 shots from the field — which is pretty damn good.
This is just a really nice pass
Did we mention Murray had a nice game? With the Lakers absolutely terrified of him putting the ball in the air in the first quarter, he drew the defence to him and did this:
— IV Sighters (@IVSighters) September 25, 2020
I don’t want to say it, but here it is: the playoffs are about adjustments. The Lakers got killed on the glass in Game 3, getting outrebounded by the Nuggets 44–25. In that game, starting centre Javale McGee and backup Dwight Howard combined for two boards.
So ahead of Game 4, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel moved Howard into the starting lineup, and was rewarded handsomely. Howard set the tone early in the first quarter with four straight points off putbacks. And he was just getting started. In the first half, he totalled 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting with 10 rebounds.
And Howard wasn’t the only one getting in on the offensive glass. The Lakers outscored the Nuggets 18–2 on second-chance points in the first half alone — essentially nullifying Denver’s super-hot shooting performance — and went into the break up by five.
By the end of the game, the Lakers had bested their previous game’s rebound total by 16 and outboarded their opponents 41–33.
Yes, but back to Murray
JAMAL MURRAY, ARE YOU KIDDING?!
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 25, 2020
After Murray hit that layup with 2:30 left in the second quarter, Reggie Miller said on the TNT broadcast that he’s going to get some Michael Jordan comparisons, and Chris Webber started laughing. He was going to say the same thing but thought he’d get killed for it. Guess not. So we’re officially in the “legitimate comparisons to MJ” stage of Murray’s insane playoff run.
The surge in appreciation for Murray isn’t just due to the consistency, efficiency and fourth-quarter bankability — it’s those things coupled with the degree of difficulty on a surprisingly large number of his shots. Spinning layups into shot-blockers? Faux-Euro-step straight-on bankers? Abrupt, no-lift floaters from in-between distances? He’s got all that and more, and he’s one of the most exciting players in the NBA because of it.
Danny Green has taken some heat from Lakers fans and general NBA watchers for his poor shooting in these playoffs, but what if I told you he hasn’t even been the worst-shooting starting shooting guard in this series?
After averaging 10.7 points on 50 per cent shooting (41.7 percent from deep) with nearly two steals per game in the Clippers series, Nuggets guard Gary Harris is putting up 4.5 points on sub-25 per cent shooting against the Lakers. He put up just three points Thursday in a playoff-low 19 minutes.
Suddenly Green’s 7.8 points on 28.6 per cent shooting in the first three games don’t look that bad. (Sort of.)
Despite the fact that Jokic had a rare quiet performance, the Nuggets kept this game within reach thanks to Murray — seriously, did we mention him? — and solid contributions from Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr. and Monte Morris, who finished with 17, 13 and 12 points, respectively.
But in the waning minutes of the game, James took over primary defence on Murray, and forced him into two missed running bank shots, which, given his performance to that point, was kind of jarring. (Full disclosure: Slow-mo replay of one of the shots made a James block look like a foul, but it wasn’t called.)
After the game, Vogel told reporters James asked for the assignment.
“LeBron asked for the assignment and obviously I granted it. He did a great job down the stretch,” Vogel said. “Nothing was really working to slow him down until LeBron took that assignment, so game ball to him.”
The Nuggets managed to shrink the Laker lead to three points on Morris’s and-one at the 3:28 mark, but missed all five of their shots afterwards. Game, Lakers, and now the Nuggets are left trying to come back from 3–1 — for a third time.
Vikings trade Yannick Ngakoue to Ravens for multiple picks
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings traded defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens for draft picks on Thursday, less than two months after acquiring the fifth-year pass rusher in a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ngakoue is tied for fourth in the NFL with five sacks in six games, including two forced fumbles, but the Vikings entered their bye week with a 1-5 record and thus more incentive to focus on the future than stay competitive in 2020.
“This was an opportunity that I felt would accomplish both the short and long term as we move forward, but these decisions aren’t easy to make,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said.
With Everson Griffen gone via free agency and Danielle Hunter injured since the beginning of training camp with a potentially season-ending neck injury, the Vikings on Aug. 31 sent a second-round draft pick in 2021 and a conditional fifth-round selection in 2022 for Ngakoue. He wanted to leave the Jaguars after accumulating 37 1/2 sacks in four years and called his arrival in Minnesota “a breath of fresh air.”
The Vikings have Ifeadi Odenigbo in place at defensive end, and fourth-round draft pick D.J. Wonnum will now be in line to start at the other spot.
“What you envision sometimes unfortunately doesn’t always come true,” Spielman said.
Minutes after Spielman’s previously scheduled video news conference with reporters, NFL Network reported Hunter has decided to have surgery. The Vikings were initially hoping he’d be able to return with rest and rehabilitation, and Spielman said acquiring Ngakoue was not related to Hunter’s injury. Since then, outside linebacker Anthony Barr was also lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered on Sept. 20.
“You try to readjust with some of the top playmakers you don’t have, especially on the defensive side. That’s what the coaches are doing right now,” Spielman said.
With the trade deadline approaching on Nov. 3, the Vikings could try to trade some other high-priced veterans, with perhaps safety Anthony Harris, left tackle Riley Reiff or tight end Kyle Rudolph enticing another team to part with a draft pick or two. Spielman steadfastly refused to commit to a full-on rebuild.
“Our goal every week is to go out there and win football games. You have to balance out both. I still think we have a very talented team,” Spielman said.
The Vikings didn’t disclose specifics of the acquired draft selections. ESPN reported the Ravens will send a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick.
Both teams are on their bye week.
The Ravens (5-1) could use Ngakoue to enhance a pass rush that has been productive of late but could use the help. Despite getting seven sacks against Cincinnati two weeks ago, five of those came from defensive backs. Defensive end Calais Campbell was acquired via trade, also from Jacksonville, during the last off-season. He had three of Baltimore’s six sacks last week in a 30-28 win at Philadelphia, but Ngakoue ought to minimize the need to send extra rushers and allow the Ravens to generate more pressure from their front four, just as the Vikings were intending.
“A quarterback can’t throw the ball if he’s on his back. So, if you can’t get there with four, you send five. If you can’t get there with five, send six. That’s the way it goes,” pass defenceco-ordinator Chris Hewitt said.
The Ravens are fourth in the league in sacks per pass attempt.
“We are excited to add Yannick Ngakoue to our football team,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. “Yannick is someone who we are very familiar with going back to the draft process years ago. He is an exciting player and a dangerous pass rusher who makes us better. Yannick grew up here. He’s the type of person we welcome in our building. Finally, we are not finished building this team, as we continue to chase our ultimate goals.”
Source: – Sportsnet.ca
Report: Ravens acquire DE Ngakoue – TSN
Yannick Ngakoue is on the move again.
The Minnesota Vikings have traded the defensive end to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2022.
Vikings and Ravens finalizing a trade to send DE Yannick Ngakoue to Baltimore for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick, sources tell ESPN.
Vikings initially sent 2021 second-round pick and 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to Jags. Now get most back.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 22, 2020
Through six games this season, Ngakoue has recorded 12 tackles, 5.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.
In his fifth year out of Maryland, Ngakoue was acquired by the Vikings from the Jacksonville Jaguars – with whom he spent the first four seasons of his career – at the end of August.
Virtanen signs two-year, $5.1 million contract with Canucks – NHL.com
Jake Virtanen signed a two-year, $5.1 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. It has an average annual value of $2.55 million.
The 24-year old forward was a restricted free agent and avoided a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Oct. 28. He scored 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) in 69 games with the Canucks last season and three points (two goals, one assist) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“Obviously there’s a bright future with the Canucks organization, so many young, talented players coming in and the moves that we’ve made, I think it’s going to be just a brighter future for our team moving forward,” Virtanen said. “I’m excited to see how it all pans out and how our team’s going to do and super excited to get things going.
“[Contract negotiations] felt like a long time but obviously super excited to get this done and be back with the Canucks for two more years. Just happy to get it done and get it over with and just focus on training and skating and the whole thing, being ready to go.”
With forward Tyler Toffoli signing a four-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 12, it opened up a spot on one of the top two lines, and Virtanen is hoping he’ll get a chance to play there.
“Obviously I’d love to play top six and have a bigger opportunity, more responsibilities,” Virtanen said. “That’s what I really hope I get. I want to be able to prove that to the team and my teammates that I can play up there and be consistent every night, making sure that I can play night in and night out. It’s an opening for me to try to jump up there. I’ve got to make sure I’m coming to camp ready to go.”
Selected by Vancouver in the first round (No. 6) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Virtanen has scored 95 points (50 goals, 45 assists) in 279 regular-season games and three points in 16 playoff games.
“Jake has continued to make progress on his two-way game and remains a contributor offensively, using his speed and size to generate chances,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. “We look forward to him taking additional steps in his growth this year to help our team be successful.”
NHL.com staff writer Tim Campbell contributed to this report
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