The marquee matchup of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets is that of the two centers: Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic. Perhaps the best overall offensive player in the league (Jokic) faces off against potentially the best overall defensive player in the league (Davis).
Game 1 of that matchup certainly did not disappoint. Both Jokic and Davis were at the height of their games on the offensive end. Davis finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks on 14-for-23 from the field. Jokic, meanwhile, finished with 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists 12-for-17 shooting and 3-for-3 from three.
They became the first pair of opposing centers to each have at least 30 points in a postseason game since Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal in 1995.
Davis gave Jokic praise prior to the series beginning, and that didn’t stop after both put together masterful Game 1 outings.
“I mean, he’s a two-time MVP, very skilled, obviously as his numbers show,” Davis said. “Made many tough shots. We just have to make it tough for him, switching up matchups and schemes on him. But he’s been playing well through the entire season and especially in these playoffs. You tip your hat to him.
“And that shot, I just looked at him and just smiled,” Davis said of Jokic’s turnaround three to beat the third quarter buzzer. “Nothing else I could have done, 40 feet away from the basket, one dribble, kind of throws it up and it goes in. Definitely one of them nights.
Jokic spoke about that third quarter buzzer beater and had a similar sentiment to Davis.
“Sometimes luck is on our side,” Jokic said. “It’s a crazy shot, of course. It’s not something that I work on. I’m glad it went in.”
The Nuggets MVP was equally favorable in his praise of Davis, as he struggled to contain the Lakers big man in one-on-one situations throughout the game.
“Yeah, he’s really, really, really, first of all, talented,” Jokic said. “He’s a real threat. He can play in the pocket. He can play iso. He can play on the post. He’s really, really talented, probably the most skilled guy if you think about the size and what he can do with the ball and how good of a mid-range shooter he is and how he’s attacking the glass. I think probably one of the most talented players in the league.”
One thing is clear from the lead-in and the aftermath of the first game of this series: these two teams very much respect one another. There has been high praise thrown around from all sides, and it’s only seemingly increasing the quality of play from both sides.
Davis and Jokic will battle it out again on Thursday night in Game 2. ‘
Davis believes in potential adjustments
The Lakers certainly feel that they found something in the second half of the Game 1 loss that will allow them to find success in Game 2.
“You know, we’re encouraged about the second half of the game, and things we can get better at and make some adjustments going into Game 2,” Davis said.”
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