The anticipation of the Los Angeles Lakers’ return to the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets was extremely high. But very early on, the Nuggets made a statement with a dominant first half of play. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and company had no answers for Denver until after halftime when it was too late.
The Nuggets led 72-54 at halftime and 90-70 midway through the third. That lead, mixed with some timely plays in the fourth quarter, held off a late rally by the Lakers, who fell 132-126 and are now down 1-0 in the series.
James spoke about the start of the game and how the Nuggets were able to get off to such a blazing start.
“Yeah, it took us a half to get into the game and that was pretty much the ballgame right there,” James said. “We have to understand that we have to start from the tip-off, and they punched us in the mouth to start. I think they had more offensive rebounds than we had total rebounds in the first half, and you know, that led to them getting second-chance points.
“They also got them on fast break and killed us in the fast break in the first half and was 10-for-10 from the free throw line. I know the game is won in 48 minutes, but they set the tone in 24 minutes and we were playing catch-up for the next 24.”
For the game, the Nuggets won the fastbreak points battle 19-13, rebounds 47-30 and kept things close on the free throw front. Now, the Lakers have to respond over the course of 48 minutes in Game 2.
James, for one, isn’t taking the moral victory of a late push in the fourth quarter of Game 1.
“In the postseason it doesn’t matter if you cut it to one or you’re down 20, if you lose, you lose,” James said. “They are 1-0 and we have to come back with desperation going into Game 2.
“We have to play better, we have to rebound better. I thought we did a good job of not turning the ball over. That’s one thing we’ve been very conscious about in the postseason, but we’ve been better in transition and tonight we weren’t that great in the first half but we cleaned it up in the second half. So, we need to be better in all facets of the game.”
The Lakers have stolen one of the first two games on the road in both of their first two series wins. It would be a huge relief to do so in this series after the way things started in Game 1. Getting a split of the two in Denver and heading back home would be a massive momentum boost.
L.A. certainly has some things to adjust and fix, but Denver will show up with adjustments as well. James is just hoping for an all-around better effort from the purple and gold.
James discusses rebounding woes
The 47-30 rebounding margin in favor of the Nuggets doesn’t fully encapsulate how big of an advantage Denver had on the glass. James explained the mix of effort vs. great rebounding by the Nuggets.
“Some of them was effort plays. Some of them was just out of reach. You know, we had a couple opportunities to get early defensive rebounds; we wasn’t able to do that. One of them was a block-out by me and Jokic coming down the middle was one of his offensive rebounds.
“I think some of them was effort and some of them is about size but for the majority, some of them in the first half, we wasn’t just locked in. We wasn’t in tune. He had six offensive rebounds in the first quarter; he had six offensive rebounds for the game. So that just lets you know we started to get more in tune with what we need to do and how we need to block out and how we need to hit bodies and things of that nature, and I think we got better as the game went on.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!