LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. - The Los Angeles Lakers are a victory away from returning to the NBA Finals — and only another comeback from 3-1 down by the Denver Nuggets can stop them.
Anthony Davis scored 34 points and LeBron James had 26 as the Lakers beat the Nuggets 114-108 on Thursday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
"We played great down the stretch, we played great overall," Davis said. "Still some things that we can fix if we want to put this thing away."
Davis got the Lakers off to a fast start with his scoring and James helped them finish strong with his defense, forcing Jamal Murray into some late misses after the guard had kept the Nuggets in it with an array of high-difficulty baskets.
"I knew it was winning time, and Jamal had it going," James said.
James added nine rebounds and eight assists, and the Lakers had 12 offensive rebounds for a whopping 25-6 advantage in second-chance points.
"This is the Western Conference finals, Game 4. If you can't help us on the defensive end, maybe you shouldn't be on the floor," Denver coach Michael Malone said.
"We have to be able to lock in, finish with a rebound. We had too many empty possessions tonight."
Game 5 is Saturday night, when the Lakers can reach the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade. Davis said he expects to be fine for it after rolling his ankle in the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets will be facing elimination for the seventh time in the bubble. They were down 3-1 against Utah in the first round and climbed out of the same hole against the Los Angeles Clippers in the West semifinals.
In this game they got within one point in the opening minute of the fourth quarter but were constantly turned back by a key stop or rebound by the Lakers.
"We just had so many breakdowns throughout the game," Murray said. "We've just got to be better."
The Lakers have 16 championships, one behind Boston for the most in NBA history, but they haven't played for one since winning the title in 2010.
The Lakers started Dwight Howard at center and he had 12 points and 11 rebounds, helping put Nikola Jokic into foul trouble.
Murray had 32 points and eight assists, but Jokic finished with just 16 points and seven rebounds.
Davis scored 27 points in Game 3 but the 6-10 forward acknowledged that his two-rebound performance was "unacceptable."
He came out much more aggressively Thursday after the Lakers played from behind much of the last game.
With an array of short jumpers, Davis made his first six shots.
The Nuggets shot 59% in the first half but the Lakers had an 18-2 advantage in second-chance points.
Murray kept the Lakers from getting too far away ahead with a 7-for-8 start.