Two days after one of the greatest moments in team history, you'll never guess what the Lakers did for an encore.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
They went from The Mamba Shot to The Miserable Flop. They went from wholly inspired to mostly insipid. They went from the Lakers to ... the Clippers?
We honestly didn't know they had it in them, but for three quarters Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers stumbled around the court like their hallway neighbors from last week, falling behind by 20, rarely active, barely there.
Yes, they mounted a furious fourth-quarter comeback, whittling the deficit to three, but they never should have needed it, and exhaustedly couldn't finish it. Thus the evening ended not in familiar dramatics but frustrating disappointment, a 114-106 Nuggets victory in Game 3 of a Western Conference finals that suddenly feels very different.
Yeah, it's a series now, the Lakers blowing their chance to slam the door shut, leading now two games to one. Yeah, think about it, the Lakers are actually one historic Anthony Davis trey from actually trailing.
And no, don't buy any narrative that the Lakers' late comeback was the story, because the story was that they lost, and how they lost.
"I thought Denver played with great energy throughout the game," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. "We didn't match it early, we matched it late."
Way late. Too late. Embarrassingly late.
The game, played again without fans at AdventHealth Arena near Orlando, Fla., was symbolized by an encounter between LeBron James and Denver's Jamal Murray early in the third quarter, when Murray flagrantly elbowed James in the jaw and knocked him on the floor. In outrebounding the Lakers by 19 and scoring nearly three times as many second-chance points, the Nuggets pummeled them.