The Los Angeles Lakers made quite a statement with a dominant win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
With the victory, the Lakers managed to break their habit of losing the opening game of each playoff series. The timing could not be any better considering the Nuggets had been playing some of their best basketball of the season after Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray sparked an impressive comeback over the L.A. Clippers in the second round.
Although it was not the matchup most predicted, the Lakers are not taking any team for granted at this point in the season. The onus will fall on them to also keep their momentum going.
The Nuggets made it to the WCF in spectacular fashion by overcoming 3-1 series deficits in each of the first two rounds and now find themselves in familiar territory working from behind.
“After watching them beat two great teams back-to-back, after being down 3-1, they are the comeback kids. They like to come back. So we know we haven’t had their best shot yet,” Markieff Morris said ahead of Game 2.
“We know they aren’t down 3-1 and it’s still early, but like I said we are a veteran team and we have a goal in mind and we want to keep working towards our goal.”
While the Lakers already have somewhat of a sense for what the Nuggets bring to the table from previous matchups, Morris admitted there is much more attention to detail when it comes to containing their movement in the playoffs.
“We got a chance to play them a couple games before the playoffs, last (seeding) game, last two games, one of those, so we have a feel for how much they move. But we are a veteran team and we’re locked into all that,” he said. “It’s the playoffs, you have to be locked into all that. We have a lot of guys that’s been here before.
“We’re 12-deep, so if a guy is not on his job, send someone else in that’s paying attention to detail more. With us, it’s just the fact that we got a lot of veteran guys in here. We can keep sending guys in at you.”
Morris added that Los Angeles is looking to build off their win by not allowing Denver to find any signs of life later in the series. “It’s going to set the tone for us, for sure,” he said.
“We’re not letting up, we’re going to play hard, we’re going to play together. We’re going to be aggressive the whole series, but you have to respect them. They’re in the Western Conference Final for a reason.
“We don’t ever think it’s going to be easy and we hope it not going to be easy. We want to go out there and play at the highest level and play our brand of basketball every night.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel did not waste any time making the necessary adjustments against Denver and their lineup centered round Jokic. Despite being moved back to the bench, Morris had no problem making his presence felt with by going 3-of-4 from deep to go with two steals.
Morris finding rhythm with team
Morris did not have much time to get properly acquainted with the Lakers since he was signed just weeks before the NBA was shut down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The unprecedented circumstances of the hiatus and late arrival to the bubble in Orlando only delayed the transition process for him.
Regardless, Morris has still managed to etch out an integral role for himself in the rotation and even emerged as a spot-starter against the Houston Rockets’ small-ball lineup. He feels it was only a matter of time before he found a way to get on the same page as his new teammates.
“Just repetition. Same thing over and over every day, being out on the court a little bit more, figuring out how to play with the guys that I’m on the court with, finding my sweet spots,” he said. “But I shot 40% when I was in Detroit from the three, so it’s really nothing new.”
On top of more opportunities, Rajon Rondo has also been a factor to finding comfort with the Lakers. “I knew eventually I would get around to catching that groove that we had before all this stuff happened,” Morris said.
“You know, we got some time in the gym right before we came out here, so I was able to get it in there with them. It just is a different dynamic. We didn’t have Rondo, so we had to play a little different brand of basketball, but we are back to regular-scheduled program and the game is a lot easier for us when we play the right way.”
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