The Los Angeles Lakers finally started a playoff series on the right foot, blowing out the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 to take an early series lead in the Western Conference Finals.
It was an offensive explosion in the first quarter as both teams had no issues scoring on the floor, and the Nuggets went into the second with a lead.
However, the tone of the game changed as the Lakers ratcheted up the defensive pressure and completely took the Nuggets out of their flow. Dwight Howard was the catalyst for the run, blocking shots and running the floor hard to get Los Angeles into the bonus early.
Head coach Frank Vogel rewarded Howard for his effort by starting him over JaVale McGee in the third quarter. The move proved to be a smart one as Howard’s energy and hustle helped blow the game open. Howard finished the night with 13 points and three rebounds in just 16 minutes.
The star of the game was Anthony Davis, however, as the big man simply imposed his will throughout the night. He did a wonderful job protecting the paint, but also had no issues scoring seemingly whenever he wanted.
Davis was able to connect with Rajon Rondo on several lobs and his jumpers en route to a game-high 37 points. Davis added 10 rebounds and four assists in only 33 minutes, displaying how dominant he can be when engaged.
With Davis carrying the scoring burden, LeBron James was able to play more of the facilitator role and to great effect as he dished out 12 assists to go along with 15 points and six rebounds.
Despite the lower scoring total, James still put pressure on the Denver defense by barreling to the rim and running on missed shots. The Lakers’ constant pressure on the rim helped put them in the bonus early, with it ultimately ending up in 37 free throw attempts to the Nuggets’ 28.
L.A. also did a better job of moving and taking care of the ball, racking up 33 assists to only 12 turnovers.
Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic combined for 42 points, but it was not nearly enough as the Lakers’ defense made sure to limit their supporting cast.
Next for Lakers
Despite being up 1-0 for the first time in the postseason, there is no time to relax as the Nuggets will be better prepared come tipoff for Game 2.
Jokic and Murray spent most of the night in foul trouble, but the Lakers can not expect that to happen a second time. Keeping the same defensive focus will be the key to another series win.
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