"We’re the underdogs,” Nuggets bulldog Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said late Saturday night after Denver continued the exorcism of its Lakers demons in Game 3 at Crypto.com Arena.

“We don’t get enough credit for what we do.”

Want the credit the No. 1 seed from December through May deserves? Sweep L.A.

Oh, I wish you could have been here — every last one of you Nuggets fanatics. Wish Chauncey and K-Mart could have been been here for a 119-108 win that punched the Nuggets to a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.

Alex English and Dan Issel? Them, too. Wish all the Nuggets believers who have lived through and felt like dying in 50 years of Lakers bullies could have heard the most beautiful sound Nuggets Nation could hear: the sound of disbelief creeping over a Lakers crowd that’s never witnessed a playoff series loss to Denver.

It sounds like the crowd leaving with 1:04 left after a Michael Porter Jr. 3-pointer. It sounds like the PA announcer droning, “The Nuggets lead the series 3-0.” It sounds like my new bestie, Lance Vigil, who clapped out his emotions and ticked off an entire section: “Let’s go, Nuggets!”

“I’m from Denver City, baby!” said Vigil, a Kennedy High grad. “This is our time!”

End this Lake Show. Game 4 is Monday, right back here under the Lakers’ 17 title banners, and the Nuggets can advance to their first NBA Finals with their first postseason sweep.

Sweep L.A.

“We’re not celebrating,” Michael Malone said after.

You know who loved this win? You know who reveled in the Nuggets strolling into a downtown that’s seen 32 NBA Finals and planting a rainbow skyline flag? All the Nuggets who lived through playoff heartbreak at the hands of the Lakers. The 1985 Nuggets, who saw English break a finger during a playoff series. The 2009 Nuggets, who looked like they might be the NBA’s best team until Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol ended Denver’s dreams. All of ‘em.

“Incredible,” former Nugget Bill Hanzlik told me late Saturday. “This Nuggets team is the real deal.”

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The beauty of the Nuggets’ win was that it was not a Nikola Jokic masterpiece. Joker rode the struggle bus right into the fourth quarter when he closed the game. The other Nuggets picked up the big guy. Porter Jr. hit a 3-pointer from the left wing. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope matched LeBron James’ trash talk with a few words of his own. Bruce Brown snuck ahead of the crowd for an easy layup and another 3-pointer, flexing his muscles at the Lakers’ frustrated bench.

The Nuggets built a 44-33 lead with Joker scoring only five points.

Joker’s the Big ATM. His giving ways have helped make everyone rich, from NBA executives Tim Connelly to Arturas Karnisovas, to teammates Gary Harris and Michael Porter Jr.

Saturday night, his fellas picked up the tab.

“We haven’t accomplished what we set out to do,” Aaron Gordon said after.

Shoot, Joker didn’t score until 8 minutes were left in the first half. The Nuggets led 68-63 when Jokic shook his head on the bench with four personal fouls in the third quarter. It didn’t matter.

“We have that resiliency, that dog mentality,” KCP said.

Denver’s 13-0 run silenced a Lakers crowd born with a banner as a blankie. Jamal Murray went off for 30 points in the first half. Seated courtside, Eddie Murphy’s golden smile vanished. Jack Nicholson scowled. Jake Gyllenhaal still looked beautiful, but we’ll assume he was hurting inside.

“It’s not over,” Lakers center Anthony Davis said. “They have to win another game.”

No team has overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.

The Nuggets are in the process of doing what a half-century of Nuggets teams could not.

Finish the exorcism. Sweep L.A.

Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.

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