Another threesome. Another failure.
LeBron James stopped at the three-point line in disbelief.
His right arm was outstretched. His wrist was bent.
A few minutes later, in the fourth quarter, James failed to reach the ball on the edge due to a foul.
James threw back his head.
His body language told the story of the game.
There would be no miracle for James or the Lakers on Saturday night.
After a 119-108 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday at the Crypto.com Arena, the Lakers were on the brink of elimination as they now trail three-to-zero games in the Western Conference Finals.
Your season could be over by Monday night.
James didn’t make any big mistakes in the fourth quarter and didn’t miss every three-pointer attempt in Game 3 like he had in the previous two games in the series.
He wasn’t bad, scoring 23 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds.
He just wasn’t great, and he had to be great to close the significant gap between the Nuggets and the Lakers.
As much as James denied it, it looks like playing round after round in these playoffs took a toll on his 38-year-old physique.
“We had some chances,” James said, “but we didn’t make it.”
To be clear, his side’s 3-0 deficit isn’t entirely his fault.
D’Angelo Russell was terrible in Game 3 at the Russell Westbrook level, making just one shot out of eight while playing his typically indifferent form of defense.
Perhaps more importantly, the Nuggets are the better team. They proved that in the regular season, finishing with the best record of the conference. They emphasized that point in the first three games of this series, including on Saturday when Jamal Murray terrorized the Lakers in the first two quarters and Nikola Jokic did the same in the fourth.
Defeating them would have required a superhuman performance for James, similar to what he delivered in an overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 4 of their first-round series.
Apparently he has no other in him.
Of the 62 teams in NBA history to go two games clean in a conference finals, only six came back to win. James attended two of them.
However, at 38, James can’t do for the Lakers what he did for the Cavaliers against the Detroit Pistons in 2007. He can’t do for the Lakers what he did against the Boston Celtics in 2018.
Now the odds are even worse.
Before the Lakers, 149 teams had attempted to reverse a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series. Each of them failed.
“Just focus on one at a time,” James said. “Just focus on Game 4 and that’s all you can really think about. Obviously this game is over.”
The only positive takeaway from Saturday night was James finally getting a shot from behind the archway after missing all ten of his three-point attempts in Games 1 and 2.
He scored his first three goals with 44 seconds left in the third quarter. His second came about 18 seconds later.
But even that couldn’t get his engine going again, as James finished the game with eight of 19 shots, including just three of nine on threes. He only made four out of seven free throws.
One of his missed threes — the one that was the cause of his temporary paralysis at the top end of the arc — came in the middle of an 11-0 run for the Nuggets that turned a Lakers lead from one point to a 10-point deficit.
“That was the game,” James said of that stretch.
James’ outside shot created the talk before the game, with manager Darvin Ham defending his shot choices.
“It looked like the all-time leading scorer in NBA history would block a shot that was given to him,” Ham said of Games 1 and 2. “The numbers say what they say, but I know that he’s able to take those shots.” So I don’t want him to become any less aggressive.”
The effects of age are not suddenly visible in this series. The consequences were just not that noticeable in the past.
James played a bunch of Stinkers towards the end of the regular season when the Lakers’ schedule was tightening. In the first few rounds of those playoffs, he picked his spots to go offensively.
James could be one of the two greatest players of all time. He is without question the tallest 38-year-old player in history. But he’s still 38.
His declining physical strength hasn’t dampened his ambition, James said he’s determined to make history again.
“It’s the only attitude for me,” he said.
The Lakers are 8-0 all-time when they are 3-0 behind in a playoff series.
They have a chance to become the first team in franchise history not to be defeated after falling so far behind in the series. That’s about the whole story James and the Lakers will write.
The calendar is not unbeaten – James has conquered it several times so far. But in the end, the calendar always wins.