The Los Angeles Lakers easily handled the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, winning 126-114 with the result never truly in doubt.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were no match for LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as foul trouble and poor shooting plagued Denver throughout the night. Very few expected the Nuggets to be in this situation, as the L.A. Clippers were the team to beat going into the second round.
Not only that, but many chose the Clippers to win the NBA title this season. However, Denver proved themselves to be a more resilient group.
Charles Barkley, who famously said the Lakers would be swept out of the first round by the Portland Trail Blazers after a Game 1 loss, switched up his tone, now saying it’s the Lakers who would walk out untouched by the Nuggets in four games, via “Inside the NBA” on TNT:
Chuck already breaking out the broom ???????? pic.twitter.com/1wYYQcAKDO
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) September 19, 2020
Barkley went further detail, explaining his belief this is simply a bad matchup for the Nuggets and specifically Jokic. After facing Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz for the majority of the first round, allowing him to dominate on the perimeter, and a combination of Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell in the second round, allowing Jokic to do literally anything he wanted, he’s now matched up against legitimate one-on-one pressure.
The Lakers have three players capable of defending Jokic without help. The first is JaVale McGee, whose athleticism allows him to stay up to speed with Jokic. The second is Dwight Howard, who simply overpowered Jokic and forced him into foul trouble using his size and strength. The third is Anthony Davis, a runner up for Defensive Player of the Year.
Game 1 proved that Jokic may not have a moment off this entire series, as L.A. always has someone rested and ready to give him trouble. Perhaps the Lakers’ advantage in that will allow them to overcome a Barkley guarantee, as he has had almost comical failure in his guarantees thus far in the postseason.
Nuggets coach Mike Malone frustrated with defense on Anthony Davis
While the bad matchup Barkley referred to was Jokic on the offensive end, the Nuggets have an equally difficult task on the defensive end while facing Davis. Malone called it too easy for Davis, who finished the night with 37 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes.
“He did not feel us. I think over 48 minutes we just can’t play him the same, give him the same look. So that’s definitely something that we can look at the film and figure out how we can be better,” Malone said.
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