LeBron James guarded the Nuggets’ hottest scorer in the final minutes and shut him down because it was ‘winning time’

LeBron James during Game 4. Mark J. Terrill/AP Images
  • Over the final 5:34 of Game 4, LeBron James guarded Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.
  • During that span, Murray shot 0-of-3 from the field with 1 turnover while scoring 4 points at the free throw line.
  • After the game, James said he asked to guard Murray because it was “winning time.”
  • The Lakers hold a 3-1 lead over the Nuggets and are one win away from the NBA Finals.

LeBron James ratcheted up the defensive intensity on Thursday by guarding Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray in the final minutes of the Los Angeles Lakers’ big Game 4 win.

Over the final 5:34, James was the primary defender on Murray, who had 28 points in the game and torched the Lakers with dazzling drives to the rim. However, in those final minutes, Murray went 0-of-3 from the field with 1 turnover. His 4 points in that span came from the foul line.

Asked about the decision to guard Murray over the final minutes, James told reporters it was “winning time.”

“I knew it was winning time, and Jamal had it going,” James said.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters after the game that James asked to guard Murray, “and obviously I granted it.”

Though the Nuggets felt Murray was fouled, James successfully stopped two late Murray drives to the basket.

James has had a renewed focus to the defensive end this season after becoming a weak link on that side of the ball in recent years. James’ ability has never been questioned, but he was inattentive off the ball in his later years with the Cleveland Cavaliers and often didn’t bother to close out on shooters.

While James isn’t an All-NBA defender across 48 minutes anymore, he can give devastatingly effective bursts on that end where his strength, size, and smarts give even the best offensive players fits.

“For me, it’s just trusting my defensive keys. Trusting my study of film. Trusting personnel. And living with the results,” James told reporters after Game 4.

“I told my teammates that I had him and everyone else can kind of stay at bay and stay home. I was able to get a couple stops, and we were able to rebound the basketball, which is the most important thing.”

The Lakers are now just one win away from the NBA Finals.