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Gordon and Jokic lead the Nuggets to the brink of a sweep with a 112-105 victory over the Lakers in Game 3

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Aaron Gordon had 29 points and 15 rebounds, Nikola Jokic added 24 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, and the Denver Nuggets advanced to the brink of the second round with a 112-105 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in game 3 of t

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Aaron Gordon had 29 points and 15 rebounds, Nikola Jokic added 24 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, and the Denver Nuggets advanced to the brink of the second round with a 112-105 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of their first-round series Thursday night.

Jamal Murray of Kitchener, Ontario, scored 22 points as the defending NBA champion Nuggets won their 11th straight meeting with LeBron James and the Lakers in dominant fashion.

Michael Porter Jr. added 20 points for Denver, which took control in the third quarter and cruised through the final minutes to its fifth straight win over Los Angeles, starting with its Western Conference finals win last season.

Game 4 is Saturday night in Los Angeles. No NBA team has ever recovered from an 0-3 playoff deficit.

Anthony Davis had 33 points and 15 rebounds, and James added 26 points and nine assists in the Lakers’ seventh consecutive postseason loss to Denver in the last two years. Los Angeles hasn’t beaten the Nuggets since December 16, 2022.

Austin Reaves scored 22 points for Los Angeles, which entered the postseason with mostly excellent play since the holidays, highlighted by an impressive play-in win over New Orleans to clinch the seventh seed.

But the Nuggets are the same nightmare for the Lakers — or for any opponent, really — as they were in the conference finals a year ago.

Davis and James were excellent again, but they can’t do it alone. The Lakers missed 15 of their first 16 three-point attempts in Game 3, going nearly 34 minutes between three-point buckets.

D’Angelo Russell was held scoreless in the 24th minute for the Lakers, who had just two assists from their inconsistent third option on offense. Russell missed all seven shots, including six three-point attempts.

Meanwhile, Gordon had his highest scoring game in the Nuggets’ past two playoff runs, highlighted by 10 points in the third quarter as Denver took control. Jokic made nine of his 13 shots and narrowly missed his 17th career postseason triple-double.

The second-seeded Nuggets started their title defense with two wins in Denver, pulling away late in Game 1 before taking Game 2 with a furious comeback capped by Murray’s game-winning jumper at the buzzer.

After blowing a 20-point lead in the second half of Game 2, the seventh-seeded Lakers felt frustrated, outgunned — and sometimes confused, according to Davis, who said the Lakers sometimes don’t know what they’re doing when faced with Denver’s offensive versatility.

None of those issues were resolved in Game 3, and now the Lakers are one loss away from ending James’ remarkable 21st NBA season. Los Angeles had not played a home game in sixteen days and since March 24, it has won only once at home.

The Nuggets went 16-4 in last season’s playoffs, and they look capable of another steamroller in the postseason after comfortably carrying the talented Lakers through three games.

A matchup with Denver is brutal even when the Lakers’ regulars are all playing well, and Russell’s disappearing act was made worse by another quiet game from starter Rui Hachimura, who had just five points while making four shots in 28 minutes.

Denver turned a narrow halftime deficit into a 10-point lead with a 24-10 run to start the second half led by Gordon and Murray, who combined for 19 points in the third quarter. The Lakers never got closer than eight points behind in the fourth quarter.

As Lakers fans left the building in the final minutes, a small group on the Lakers sideline chanted “Fire Darvin!” towards Lakers coach Darvin Ham.

Although Hachimura and Russell’s struggles made it irrelevant, Spencer Dinwiddie had eight points when the Lakers finally got a bench score from someone other than Taurean Prince, the only Los Angeles reserve to score in those two games in Denver.

Lakers swingman Jarred Vanderbilt did not return from the sprained right foot that has kept him out since Feb. 1. Cam Reddish and Christian Wood also remained out with injuries, but Ham said the team will get important updates on Friday.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA

Greg Beacham, The Associated Press