Lakers eliminated by Nuggets in Game 5 on Jamal Murray's final shot

Did LeBron James play his last game for the Lakers?

The Lakers’ season ended Monday night after a 108-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Game 5 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series, at which point nothing bound James to the team.

James, 39, can decline his $51.4-million option for next season.

The choice will say more about the priorities of the 39-year-old James than the state of the Lakers.

In James’ six seasons with the Lakers, they have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs twice and not even reached them two other times.

The franchise is now four seasons removed from the championship it won in the NBA bubble.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, looks to pass the ball after spinning around Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during Game 5.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, looks to pass the ball after spinning around Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during Game 5 in Denver.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The Lakers might be the Lakers in name, but they’re not the Lakers in performance.

Their Game 5 loss was the result of the kind of shot Lakers players used to make in their glory years, as Nuggets guard Jamal Murray sank a 14-foot jumper over Austin Reaves with four seconds left.

The fact the Lakers were in position to return the series to Los Angeles for a sixth game was a surprise, considering what happened to Anthony Davis earlier in the game.

About a minute into the second half, with the Lakers leading by six points, Davis bumped into Michael Porter Jr. as he ran by him. Davis crumbled to the court clutching his left shoulder.

Davis remained in the game but was never the same.

A couple of minutes later, Davis reached with his left hand to contest a jumper by Murray. The shot went in. Davis winced in pain.

With about three minutes left in the third quarter, Davis departed the Lakers’ bench area and headed toward the locker room. When the quarter ended, the Lakers were down 81-79.

Davis returned to the court for the fourth quarter.

A compromised Davis finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Each of the Lakers’ starters scored 14 or more points, led by James with 30. Austin Reaves scored 19, Rui Hachimura had 15 and D’Angelo Russell 14.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our crew despite everything that happened,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Obviously, the series didn’t go in our favor, didn’t start the way we wanted it to, but to win that one at home, fight tooth and nail today to get this one, our guys showed a lot of guts and a lot of character and that resilience to continue to fight.”

There were early indications this game wouldn’t be like the last one — or, for that matter, any of the four before it.

For the first time in the series, the Nuggets led after the first quarter. Murray, who was listed as questionable for the game because of a left calf strain, scored 12 points in the period to give his team a 28-24 lead.

Playing with a dark blue wrap on his injured leg, Murray made four of nine shots in the opening quarter, including three of six from three-point range. Murray made only 38% of his shots over the previous four games.

The Lakers went into halftime with a 53-50 edge, however, courtesy of James and Davis. James registered 10 points and seven assists before the break; Davis had 16 points and nine rebounds.

Murray finished with a game-high 32 points.

In retrospect, the series was a microcosm of the Lakers’ season — hopelessness followed by more hopelessness followed by a smidge of optimism that was ultimately extinguished by the reaffirmation of the previously mentioned hopelessness.

Last season, the Lakers made up for their underwhelming regular season by reaching the Western Conference finals, which convinced their braintrust to retain the nucleus of their roster. This season, there was no such miracle to cover up their shortcomings.

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