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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 22: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with referee Kane Fitzgerald #5 during the first quarter against the Denver Nuggets in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 22, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Lakers needed Saturday’s game for several reasons. The most obvious is that the only way to keep their season alive was to win Game 4 against the Nuggets. But, as much as anything, the mental block the Lakers had in playing Denver was a very large one that is now gone.

Ultimately, it may not matter much as the Lakers left themselves no margin for error. But as LeBron said postgame, they gave themselves a lifeline at the very least and an opportunity to keep playing.

“Only opportunity for us is to just play the next game,” LeBron said. “We’ve given ourselves another life. We’ve given ourself another lifeline. It’s a one-game series for us. Monday’s game is the most important game of the season for us and we understand that and we know that.

“You know what’s at stake. You lose, you’re done. You win, you keep going. There’s not much to talk about

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To be fair to the Lakers, they actually have done well in the do-or-die games this season. During the In-Season Tournament, the Lakers not only captured the title but went unbeaten. And in need of wins down the stretch, the team won their final two games of the regular season and then the play-in game on the road.

While it took them way too long to beat Denver, they did finally get over that hurdle. And as D’Angelo Russell noted postgame, it gives them something positive to look at on film, a rarity against the Nuggets of late.

“I think it was huge,” D’Lo said. “We got something positive to look at on the film. Like I said, everybody did their part. We know that’s what it’s going to take to win. So, to continue to keep that going is the effort we need to have.”

None of this means that the Lakers are going to win anymore this series. But they have a chance and that’s all they could have asked for heading into the weekend.

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