Tuesday night’s game between the Lakers and Nuggets at Staples Center was just the latest chapter of what has become a surprisingly fun mini-rivalry for two up-and-coming teams.
Los Angeles outscored Denver 35-21 in the fourth quarter on the way to a 112-103 victory, dealing a blow to the Nuggets’ playoff chances in a tough Western Conference race. But the contest didn’t end without some sparks flying, continuing what Nuggets guard Will Barton has called a “suburban beef.”
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Will Barton with the money quote on the whole Jamal Murray/Lakers deal: “It ain’t real. That’s some suburban beef, man. Come on. Somebody mad about somebody getting hot and talking a little bit? That happens every day in the NBA.” #Nuggets
— Gina Mizell (@ginamizell) March 13, 2018
So, what’s the issue here? Let’s take a look at three incidents that have increased the intensity for every Lakers-Nuggets game.
1) Jamal Murray dribbles around Lonzo Ball
Murray started it all back in early December. In the closing seconds of the Nuggets’ 115-100 win, Murray went out of his way to dribble around an unsuspecting Ball, leading to a hard shove from Julius Randle.
The Lakers didn’t take kindly to Jamal Murray dribbling around Lonzo to end the game. pic.twitter.com/bGBPiQy5nq
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 3, 2017
The Lakers clearly took exception to the play, and Murray even admitted after the game he “may have taken it too far. It was a bad play by me.”
That wouldn’t be the only time Murray caused a reaction from the Lakers.
2) Luke Walton doesn’t like “disrespectful” Jamal Murray
This time it was the Lakers head coach who didn’t like Murray’s antics. Near the end of another Denver win on Friday night, Murray appeared to aim some trash talk in Isaiah Thomas’ direction, and Walton refused to let it slide.
“I felt like for the second time we played here, Murray was being a little disrespectful at the end of the game,” Walton said, per ESPN. “[It was] just some trash-talking toward our guys.”
Murray dismissed any critical comments and pulled out the “they just got their feelings hurt” card on the Lakers.
“I can’t control what the other team’s gonna feel,” Murray said. “I’m just gonna go out there and hoop, and whoever takes it to heart and takes their losses salty, I can’t do anything about that.”
3) Nikola Jokic battles Julius Randle; Isaiah Thomas passes to Jamal Murray
Fast forward to Tuesday night, when things only got more physical.
First, the Staples Center crowd started a healthy “Murray sucks” chant with under a minute remaining.
Then, Nikola Jokic and Julius Randle became entangled, leading to Randle tossing Jokic to the ground.
“I just didn’t like [how] he was coming down flailing, flapping his arm and stuff,” Randle said, per ESPN. “And that’s fine, and that is his game, but when you hook my arm and try to pull my shoulder out of place, I don’t like that.”
Finally, Thomas put the finishing touches on the Lakers’ revenge game by casually tossing the ball in Murray’s direction as the shot clock expired. Thomas knew exactly who would be receiving that ball the entire possession.
Unfortunately for NBA fans, the Lakers and Nuggets will not meet again in 2018. The teams split the season series 2-2, so we will be forced to wait until the 2018-19 season starts before Murray faces a bunch of angry Lakers (and their fans) in a grudge match.
It’s not a full rivalry just yet, but Lakers vs. Nuggets certainly has some potential.