Despite trailing by 18 points at the half and as many as 21 in the game, the Los Angeles Lakers fought their way back in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. Anthony Davis and LeBron James led the way of course, but once again it was Austin Reaves making a number of huge shots down the stretch to give the Lakers a chance to pull off the comeback.
Reaves scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half including 11 in the fourth quarter, but ultimately it just wasn’t enough. And for Reaves, the biggest difference in the second half for the Lakers was simply effort.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously never want to lose. First half was really ugly to say the least,” Reaves said after the loss. “But like you said, we got it going in the second half and really just played harder. It was the common denominator at the end of everything was we went out and competed in the second half and gave ourselves a chance. Like I said, never want to lose, but this is a series for a reason.”
Sometimes there is an in-depth explanation for why things change and other times it is simple. In the eyes of Reaves, the Lakers just buckled down and played harder and that was why they were able to get back in the game. There were also some adjustments made and one thing the Lakers continued to go to was a James-Reaves pick-and-roll.
“Yeah, obviously it worked,” Reaves noted. “And I think it just gives us an action to use, when you have a guy like Bron, you’ve got to — if the guard that’s guarding me or whoever sets the screen has got to honor whatever he’s about to do for obvious reasons, because it’s Bron.
“So, I think it’s really just an action to get them kind of a step behind, and then whatever happens after that, a play out of close-outs or a shot or a swing or whatever it is. So I think it was good for us tonight.”
What makes Reaves great is his ability to do all of those things when the ball comes his way. He can knock down those threes or attack off the dribble and make a play for himself or his teammates as well.
But in the end the Lakers’ comeback came up just short, in large part due to some tough shots made by the Nuggets and the Lakers could be seen just laughing at different moments at the unbelievable shots Denver converted.
“That’s all you really can do. They are good,” Reaves added. “Jamal made one over Bron. Jokic over AD. Like you said, Porter over me in the corner.
“But they are really good players for those reasons. They make shots like that. But like you said, we weathered the storm. I remember we went to the bench, I think it was 6:06 in third, and I think we had scored 18 points and they had scored 20. So obviously scoring wasn’t the issue for either team. So we’ve just got to take a little bit more pride on the defensive end and figure it out.”
The Lakers being able to complete the comeback and steal Game 1 would have been great, but it just wasn’t in the cards. But there were some positives to take away and Reaves and the Lakers will be looking to build on those in the next contest.
Rui Hachimura believes bigger lineups will be better for Lakers against Nuggets
One of those positives was the Lakers turning to a bigger lineup in the second half with a Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Anthony Davis frontcourt. Unlike the Warriors who were smaller across the board, Hachimura believes going bigger is a better move for the Lakers against this bigger Nuggets team.
“Yeah, I feel like for this series, it’s different than last series when we were playing against Golden State,” Hachimura said. “They are very small and quick and there are a lot of shooters. But this series, they are almost like — the point guard is 6-6 and everybody is like 6-10 and 6-8, so just got to, you know, I think for that lineup that you just said, that’s going to be good for us. And it was our first game, too, so you know, we’re just still feeling the games and everything.
“But yeah, I like the lineup for sure.”
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