Defending Champion Denver Nuggets Advance In Playoffs As Jamal Murray Game-Winner Downs Los Angeles Lakers

Jamal Murray hit his second game winner of the series. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

By Homero De la Fuente and Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — Jamal Murray knocked down the go-ahead jumper with 3.6 seconds left in Game 5 to lift the Denver Nuggets to a series-clinching 108-106 victory over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

Murray’s game winner was his second of the series after drilling a buzzer-beater in Game 2, which completed a 20-point comeback for the defending champions at Ball Arena for a 2-0 series lead.

After coming into the game with a calf injury, the Nuggets guard finished Monday’s match-up with a game-high 32 points to go along with seven assists to wrap up the series, 4-1.

“This one was a little better,” Murray said of his game winner. “I’m speechless … it’s a dream come true. All these fans on your side and to get it done in this fashion, I don’t know what to say, I’m just happy for us.”

The loss for the Lakers is the franchise’s 12th in its last 13 meetings against Denver, including being swept in the Western Conference Finals last season as the Nuggets marched to their first NBA championship.

Despite holding a lead for about 75% the series, James and the Lakers could not find a solution against the Nuggets.

The Lakers, as they’ve done every game in the series, held a lead at halftime and led by as much as nine points in the third quarter before the Nuggets closed it out with a 21-10 run for a two-point advantage heading into the fourth.

Both teams exchanged leads down the stretch, before Murray knocked down the winner. Lakers forward Taurean Prince launched a prayer from halfcourt at the buzzer that fell way short of the basket.

Two-time MVP Nikola Jokić finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr. added 26 points, including 5-of-7 from deep.

With the series win, the Nuggets advance to the second round where they will play against Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Game 1 is on Saturday in Denver, where the Nuggets are 36-8 this season, including 3-0 in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the loss concludes the 21st season for James, who finished with a near triple-double with 30 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds – as well as four steals – in Game 5.

For the first time since the 2004-05 season, the second round of the NBA playoffs will not feature any of James or NBA playoff mainstays Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

Thunder sweep the Pelicans, Celtics hammer Heat

Elsewhere in the playoffs, the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 97-89 to complete a 4-0 series sweep and advance to the second round.

OKC star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored a joint game-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and two blocks as the Thunder became the youngest team in NBA history to win a playoff series.

Jalen Williams, another of OKC’s rising talents, also scored 24 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists and two steals.

It was a rough night for the Pelicans, still without the injured Zion Williamson, which encapsulated their struggles all series.

CJ McCollum scored a team-high 20 points, but Brandon Ingram scored just eight points on 2-of-14 shooting.

The Boston Celtics opened up a 3-1 series lead over the Miami Heat with a comfortable 102-88 victory on Monday.

The Celtics were led by an inspired Derrick White, who scored 38 points – including eight three-pointers – during the dominant win.

However, there was some bad news for the Celtics who lost starting center Kristaps Porziņģis to an apparent calf injury.

The Heat, who are still without star Jimmy Butler, will now have to pull off an improbable escape to repeat last year’s heroics of reaching the NBA Finals as a play-in team.

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