Nikola Jokic And The Nuggets Cruised Past The Lakers In Game 1

The Los Angeles Lakers have their chance to avenge last year’s Western Conference Finals sweep at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, but after a 114-103 Nuggets win in Game 1, it’s clear that many of the same problems exist for L.A. in toppling the defending champs.

Early on, the Lakers were rolling, jumping out a 33-25 lead after one quarter thanks to big time performances from their stars. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both delivered in the early going, combining for 37 points in the first half.

Despite that showing, the Nuggets were able to go on a run of their own in the second quarter to close the gap, trailing by just three at the half.

In the third quarter, the Nuggets turned it into high gear and the Lakers simply didn’t have an answer. Denver won the third 32-18, turning defense into offense and simply overwhelming Los Angeles on both ends of the floor.

Leading the way was, as always, Nikola Jokic, who picked apart the Lakers defense with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists on 15-of-23 shooting on the night.

In the fourth quarter, the Lakers cut the lead to single digits on a few occasions, but every effort at a run met an answer from the Nuggets stars.

Jamal Murray likewise posted a double-double with 22 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds — albeit on a tough shooting night (9-of-24) — and all five Denver starters reached double figures. After a dreadful run shooting the ball last postseason, Michael Porter Jr. looked more like himself with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting (3-of-7 from three), and Aaron Gordon continued to be the glue between Denver’s stars with 12 points, 11 boards, and seven assists.

The Lakers got 59 combined points from James and Davis, but both slowed down in the second half after torrid starts. Much like last year, once Denver was able to establish a lead, the Lakers just could not stack enough stops and scores to reel them in down the stretch, as the Nuggets offense continues to prove too difficult to slow down late in games. Going forward, if the Lakers are going to make this series different from last year’s sweep, they’ll need to shoot much better (8-of-29 from three) and figure out how to get more from their “others.”