DENVER (AP) Jamal Murray overcame a strained left calf, management's suggestion he sit this one out and another haymaker from the Los Angeles Lakers to score 32 points and sink the game-winner with 3.6 seconds left Monday night.

That sent LeBron James to his earliest playoff exit ever and the Denver Nuggets tottering into Round 2 with a 108-106 win in Game 5 that featured 16 lead changes and 10 ties and was only secured when Taurean Prince's halfcourt heave fell short as time expired.

“Shout-out to the Lakers, they gave us a great series,” said Murray, who also hit the franchise's first playoff buzzer-beater in Game 2.

“Those are shots that you dream of as a little kid,” said Murray, who called this one just “a little better.”

If not for his dogged determination - and defiance - Murray never would have had the chance to seal the series.

“I came in a little earlier today to see if I was going to be able to go, and I felt like I could and they just didn't want me to risk it,” recounted Murray, who warmed up with an ice pack strapped to his injured calf. "They told me no. They told me no.

"And I didn't say no. I didn't want to leave my teammates out there,” added Murray, who missed 23 games due to injury in 2023-24. “We've been battling all season. Everybody's hurt at some point, everybody's going through something and I just wouldn't be able to live with myself if I wasn't able to play this game.

”I'm just glad they listened to me - and listened to me listening to my body - and just trusting me with it."

James' two free throws tied it at 106 with 26 seconds left and the Nuggets, just as they did in Game 2, eschewed the timeout and Murray took the ball on a high screen-and-roll to his left, shaking Austin Reaves as he crossed through the lane and swished the 14-footer.

“That kid’s a warrior, man," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "The bigger the moment, the kid just continues to shine.”

Nikola Jokic, who committed an uncharacteristic seven turnovers, narrowly missed his 19th career playoff triple-double with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists and Michael Porter Jr. scored 26.

James had 30 points and 11 assists and Anthony Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds but appeared bothered down the stretch after banging his left shoulder into Porter in the second half.

The Nuggets advanced to face the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round starting next weekend. That series starts in Denver, where the Nuggets are a Western Conference-best 36-8, including 3-0 in the playoffs.

Not that it has been easy.

The Nuggets trailed for about three-fourths of the minutes in this series, they scuffled through extended shooting slumps and they're a banged-up bunch that can definitely use the rest.

“First of all, tip your hat to them,” James said. “Defending champions. They’re great team. Super-well coached and made the plays down the stretch to win the series. You give credit where credit is due, that’s for sure.”

Davis matched Murray’s 16 first-half points and the Lakers led 53-50 at halftime. They pushed that advantage to nine points but the Nuggets closed on a 21-10 run to take an 81-79 lead into the fourth quarter that was tight until the buzzer.

The Nuggets, who swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals last summer on their way to winning the franchise's first NBA championship, beat the Lakers for the 12th time in their last 13 games.

The only other time James was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs came in 2021 when the Phoenix Suns beat L.A. in six games.

So, this was the shortest of James' 17 trips to the playoffs despite the Lakers taking the reigning champs to the brink in all five games.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our crew despite everything that happened,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham, who's sure to be on the hot seat. “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."



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