With Anthony Davis and a focused defensive effort leading the way, the Los Angeles Lakers took a 1-0 series lead with a 126-114 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. It marked the first time the Lakers won a playoff series opener this year.
Both teams made a living in the paint to begin the game as Davis and Nikola Jokic used their size and length to score near the rim. The early difference, though, was Los Angeles seemed intent on pushing the pace on Denver’s misses, contributing to their early 13-8 lead.
Rajon Rondo, who was questionable to suit up due to back spasms, checked in midway through the quarter and immediately made an impact by dishing a few dimes. Nikola Jokic began to assert himself scoring in the post and finding his teammates and a Jamal Murray three at the buzzer put the Lakers down 38-36.
LeBron James gave Los Angeles a major scare after he went down after rolling his ankle, but immediately rebounded with a dunk off a pick-and-roll play. The Lakers fully captured the momentum afterward, forcing turnovers and getting out in transition to build a double-digit lead.
The Nuggets didn’t score their first basket of the second quarter until nearly six minutes had passed. Dwight Howard was a massive boost off the bench, defending the paint and running the floor hard and earning several trips to the line in the process.
However, Despite Murray and Jokic out of the game due to foul trouble, the bench kept them within striking distance and the Lakers went into halftime only up 70-59.
Howard started in place of JaVale McGee to start the second half and was able to draw Jokic’s fourth foul with a deep seal in the post. However, the defensive focus was not there as they allowed the Nuggets several open looks that they knocked down.
L.A. began to tighten things up and executed on both ends to extend their lead to 21 after a Davis stepback jumper. Davis continued to torment Denver all over the floor and the Lakers went into the fourth quarter with a commanding 103-79 lead.
Rondo kicked off the scoring in the final period with a corner three, but Michael Porter Jr. was an offensive spark for the Nuggets, keying an 8-0 run and forcing a timeout. L.A. came out of that well and maintained a comfortable lead to finish the game out.
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