Dribbles: This time, Lakers do the dirty work necessary to take command

Sam Amico

Random dribbles following the Los Angeles' Lakers 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday.

1. The Lakers simply out-determined an opponent known for its great determination. Nothing fancy there. Just good old-fashioned desire and elbow grease.

2. That was quite a bit different than Game 3, when the Lakers came out flat and were out-hustled most of the night. But on this night LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the rest were aggressive from the get-go.

3. They weren't bad late, either. The Lakers' lead was just 87-86 early in the fourth quarter, and 105-102 with 3:00 to go. But they really turned it on defensively. In fact, the Nuggets couldn't muster so much as one field goal in the final 3:28.

4. Part of that was because LeBron switched onto Nuggets scoring extraordinaire Jamal Murray at winning time. It resulted in Murray having to work extra hard for every pass, dribble and shot. LeBron altered one Murray shot late, and blocked another.

5. James to TNT  on taking the Murray challenge: "Hell of a player. One of the hottest guys we have in the (Disney) bubble today. ... Using my length, using my athleticism, and also just being smart. I've been doing this for a long time."

6. Another example of the Lakers' grit: After getting demolished by 19 on the boards last game, they battled their way to a 41-33 advantage this time. "We didn't rebound at all last time," James told TNT. "They dominated us. We just tried to turn the tide."

7. Davis took a shot to the chest while setting a pick in the fourth quarter, then immediately bent over in pain. A few players after that, he landed awkwardly and collapsed to the floor, clutching his ankle. It was a scary moment for everyone. But Davis came right back in following a timeout and never missed a beat.

8. For starters, he snagged two extremely underrated offensive rebounds in the final 3:00, both of which resulted in points. Mostly, those rebounds also allowed the Lakers to tick some valuable seconds off the clock.

9. Overall, the Lakers grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, recording a a whopping 25-6 advantage in second-change points. That included another biggie by Rajon Rondo with 31 seconds remaining that basically sealed the win.

10. Davis has been particularly unstoppable in this series, finishing with 34 points on 10-of-14 shooting. James erupted for 29 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. It really was just another day at the office for LeBron. And the Lakers are now 18-1 when Davis and James combine for 60 points.

11. One other underrated aspect of this win was how the Lakers finished 28-of-35 on free throws. The Nuggets went 20-of-23. So the Lakers made eight more and won by six.

12. Davis was 13-of-14 from the line, James 11-of-14.

13. Murray was again magnificent, making some shots a lot of players would never dare take -- including floater over Davis. He also made a Michael Jordan-esque layup underneath the outstretched arms of James. But in the end, Murray's 32 points and tireless effort just were not enough.

14. Nuggets forward Jerami Grant has come out of nowhere in the West finals and scored 17 points. Nikola Jokic was hampered with foul issues, finishing with 16 points and seven boards -- a pedestrian night for the Nuggets star center.

15. The Nuggets have overcome 3-1 deficit in each of their previous two series. And here they are again.

16. For more on this series, follow SI.com Lakers reporter Melissa Rohlin. Game 5 is Saturday night. The Lakers can advance to their first Finals appearance in a decade with a win.

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