Hernández: Why can't Lakers make history and come back in series to beat Nuggets?

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While fielding questions after his team’s victory over the Denver Nuggets, Lakers coach Darvin Ham asked a question of his own.

“Why not us?” he asked.

Why not the Lakers?

Why can’t the Lakers be the first in NBA history to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series?

In their 119-108 victory in Game 4, the Lakers proved what was evident in their losses in each of the first three games.

They can play with the defending NBA champions. They can beat the defending NBA champions.

So, once again, why not them?

Why not the Lakers?

LeBron James soared on Saturday night, scoring a team-high 30 points.

Anthony Davis dominated the boards, collecting 23 rebounds to match his career postseason high.

D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves knocked down shots that preserved the Lakers’ advantage, each of them contributing 22 points.

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was kept in check. Forward Aaron Gordon was completely shut down.

This is what this Lakers team was built to do. This was the vision for this team when the nucleus from the previous season’s team was kept intact. This was how this team was expected to win games — with James and Davis controlling the game; with two of the other starters establishing themselves as legitimate scoring threats; with the defense smothering their opponents over 48 minutes.

The Lakers have done it once. They might still have a three-games-to-one deficit, but why can’t they do it again and again and again?

They snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Nuggets in Game 4 by avoiding the kind of second-half collapses that cost them the previous three games of this series.

The Lakers were outscored in the third quarter again, but by only a 32-30 margin. They went into the fourth quarter with a 91-80 lead.

“Obviously, we’ve just been talking about how we have to sustain our effort, we have to sustain our energy,” James said. “I thought the third quarter was very important.

“We scored with them.”

Of the 192 minutes played in this series, the Lakers have been ahead for more than 136 of them. Outside of a few stretches, they have outplayed the Nuggets. This series could easily be tied.

Which isn’t to say the problematic stretches for the Lakers weren’t reflections of larger issues.

Their best player, James, is 39, and their second-best player, Davis, is an old 31. The Lakers have been overly dependent on them for offense because of the inconsistencies of Russell, Reaves and Rui Hachimura.

Russell somehow went scoreless in Game 3. Reaves scored a combined 22 points in Games 1 and 2. Hachimura is averaging six points a game in this series.

There’s a reason the Lakers were seeded low enough to have to take on the defending-champion Nuggets in the first round.

But what if they can continue to prevent Murray from taking over games? Murray is shooting just 38% in this series, down from 48.1% in the regular season.

What if they can lock down Gordon the way they did in Game 4, when they limited him to seven points? In the previous game, Gordon scored 29 points.

“They’re going to make adjustments,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’re super-well-coached. We have to be able to counter their attacks but also come in with the same mindset that we have to sustain our effort, we have to sustain our energy. We’re here to do that. Keep attacking, and try to keep them [at bay] in the things that we can control, like fast-break points.”

The Lakers gave up only 12 fast-break points, which encouraged James. He also pointed to how they conceded only nine offensive rebounds and five second-chance points.

Game 5 will be in Denver.

James called on his team to not look beyond that.

“Our next task is Monday’s game,” he said, “and we’ll see what happens.”

If the Lakers win and force the series to return to Los Angeles, who knows what can happen?

Ham described every game as a new opportunity — “a new opportunity for us to be more competitive, more together, more selfless.”

Also an opportunity to do something no team has ever done.

Why not?

Why not them?

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