2024 NBA Playoffs Takeaways: ‘Jamal Murray made a shot’

Things move fast in the NBA playoffs, so to help you stay on top of things, from now through at least the end of the second round, we will have nightly takeaways from the postseason action.

The home team still has yet to lose in these playoffs.

Jamal Murray made a shot”

This clip sums up the Lakers' mood and what matters most out of Game 2.

The Nuggets demand perfect basketball from their opponent to beat them. The Lakers have that in them for stretches, but not 48 minutes. Monday night the Lakers played their best half of basketball maybe all season and led by 15 at the break, a lead that pushed out to 20 early in the second quarter. Anthony Davis was on fire going 7-of-7 for 14 points in the second quarter, the Lakers were dragging Nikola Jokic out to defend pick-and-rolls and taking advantage, D'Angelo Russell was hot and hit six 3-pointers, the Lakers hounded Jamal Murray and their transition defense was the best it had been in a long time. Everything was clicking.

The Nuggets' comeback was more an erosion of the lead than one big run — this is not the Curry-era Warriors, where two wild minutes change a game. The Nuggets just keep executing, sticking with their game plan, and wearing the other team down. They have done it to the Lakers for 10 straight games.

Anthony Davis got tired and missed shots, and Jokic started backing him down in the post and getting the shot he wanted. The Murray/Jokic pick-and-roll is relentless and began to find space. Nuggets shooters were always in the right shot and knocked down enough of them. The Lakers started to wear down until late in the fourth quarter, despite some LeBron 3s, it was a tied game.

Then Jamal Murray made a shot.

The Lakers head home down 0-2 and saying all the same things they said last playoffs when they went home down 0-2 — these games are close and just a shot here, a stop there, a favorable call or two and they can get the win. They probably get one game at home with enough of those things to win.

But Los Angeles needs two. The Lakers have to even this series at home, or it is over, and the last 10 games these teams have played suggest that level of consistency is too much to ask.

Brunson, DiVincenzo etch their names into Knicks playoff history

The ending of this game was vintage 2004 New York Knicks — an iconic 30 seconds of resolve by a Knicks team already beloved by their fans for their grit and resilience.

New York had no business winning this game after being down five with 30 seconds to go. But for 30 seconds, they outhustled every 76er on the court. Their star knocked down a big shot (Jalen Brunson), and role players made huge plays (Isaiah Hartenstein with an offensive rebound and later a block, Donte DiVincenzo with what proved to be the game-winner). They also took advantage of the other team's mistakes.

It was a soul-crushing loss for the 76ers. Philadelphia thought they had this game — they should have had this game. Up five with :30 seconds left, they should have been able to secure the win. Tyrese Maxey put them in this position when he found a second wind and sparked a 12-4 76ers run late.

Then this happened.

Philadelphia had chances, but Hartenstein blocked a Maxey lay-up, and they didn't get a good look at a game-tying 3. Philly was left hanging their heads and complaining about the officiating.

The 76ers offense gets stagnant in the clutch, it gets predictable and the Knicks overwhelmed it. Nick Nurse tried to call a timeout with 27 seconds left, but it should have been the veteran Kyle Lowry on the baseline to use it. Instead, Lowry attempted to force a pass, and the turnover ensued. This was followed by Philly not securing the rebound on DiVincenzo's first miss. Philadelphia can send their grievance to NBA headquarters and complain about not getting the timeout call, or Brunson tugging on Maxey's jersey, or a host of other close calls, but their mistakes down the stretch opened the door for the Knicks to burst through.

Both games were close. Philadelphia can send their grievance to NBA headquarters for all the good it will do. Ultimately, Embiid is right: The Sixers can flip this at home at the Wells Fargo Center.

"We should be (up) 2-0, so we're good," Embiid said postgame, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. "We should be winning this series. We're going to win this. We know what we've got to fix. We did a better job today, so we're going to fix it. But we're the better team and we're going to keep fighting.”

They have not been the better team through two games and now there is no margin for error — Philly has to win the next two at home or this series is over.

Cavaliers learned their lesson, now pushing Magic around

Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were one-and-done in the playoffs because the New York Knicks pushed them around — New York was more physical and Cleveland folded under the pressure.

Cleveland learned its lesson — it is up 2-0 on Orlando because it has been the more physical team in this first-round series. You've
seen that mainly on the defensive end where the Cavaliers — seventh in the league in defense this season — have shut down a limited Orlando offense.

This is proving to be a matchup that just works for Cleveland. The Cavs' defensive weak point is at the guard spots, but Orlando — with Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs — is poorly equipped to exploit it (good to see Suggs return from that knee strain, hopefully it doesn't linger). Paolo Banchero is the primary shot creator, but the Cavaliers have plenty of long, athletic big men to throw at him and slow him down. It's the same with Franz Wagner.

Donovan Mitchell has been the best player in the series, averaging 26.5 points a game, and the Evan Mobley everyone has been waiting on has started to show up, averaging 16.5 points and nine rebounds a night. Cleveland has led every minute of this series.

Orlando is going home and so hope is alive, but they have been pushed around for two games now and unless they push back hard this series will be over soon.