Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals started off as a game that looked to be preparing to serve its spectators a healthy portion of garbage time , but it ended turning into a contest that had some tense moments but the Denver Nuggets managed to hang on to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 132-126 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Falling behind as much as 21 , the Lakers spent most of the game playing uphill but to their credit, continued to fight and trimmed the lead to as little as three points, but they were unable to complete the comeback.
Nikola Jokić put up 8 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists in the first quarter alone, spearheading the Nuggets domination on the boards to the tune of 20-3. The Nuggets lead 37-25 at the end of the first quarter, and considering the way they got obliterated on the glass, the Lakers were fortunate to be down only twelve points.
The Nuggets extended their lead in the second quarter, taking a 72-54 lead into the half.
The Denver butt-kicking coninued in the third quarter, with the Nuggets building a 21-point lead at 93-72 when Jokić canned a three-pointer with 5:24 left in the period. To their credit, the Lakers cut into the lead, finding themselves down just 14, and that was with a miraculous shot from Jokić to end the quarter.
Los Angeles battled their way back , cutting the lead down to three but could draw any closer, as Denver made enough plays to stave off their purple and gold clad opposition.
Jokić was having his way for the most part until Darvin Ham switched from Anthony Davis as his primary defender to Rui Hachimura and that seemed to not only give Jokić but the Nuggets offense issues. With Davis off Jokić, he was now free to erase shots from the weak side and could roam to wreak havoc in the passing lanes. The switch lead to several turnovers from the Nuggets star as he was forcing some plays that were not there. This switch was one of the factors that helped spur the Lakers’ comeback. The question is now will Coach Ham, start Hachimura in Game 2 or will go to this defensive wrinkle as needed.
Nikola Jokić finished with a triple-double, scoring 34 points, grabbing 21 rebounds and dishing out 14 assists. Jamaal Murray added 31 points on 12/20 from the floor, including 4-8 from downtown. Former Laker Kentavious Caldwell-Pope burned his old squad with 21 points.
For the Lakers, Anthony Davis led the say with 40 points and 10 rebounds. LeBron James scored 26 points, while adding 12 rebounds and 9 assists. Austin Reeves added 23 points and Rui Hachimura continued his strong postseason play with 17 points on 8/11 from the floor.
Game 2 tips off Wednesday night at 8:30 PM EST.