The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 132-126 in the first game of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night due mainly to a triple-double performance by Nikola Jokic. Jokic finished with 34 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists, giving him his sixth triple-double of these playoffs.
Because of Jokic’s hot start and strong finish, as well as Jamal Murray’s 31 points, the Nuggets were victorious over the Lakers in the first game of the Western Conference Finals for the first time.
Anthony Davis finished with 40 points and ten rebounds, while LeBron James finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists despite a poor start. LeBron James also had nine assists. Austin Reaves contributed 23 points and was a driving force behind Los Angeles’ furious fourth-quarter comeback that came close to erasing Denver’s 14-point lead after three quarters.
The Nuggets had a lead of as high as 21 points at one point in the fourth quarter, but the Lakers twice cut the deficit to within three points, the first time on a 3-pointer made by Reaves when the score was 124-121 and the second time on a pair of free throws made by James when there was only 1:12 left in the game.
After Jokic made both of his free throws with 26 ticks left on the clock to give Denver a 131-126 lead, Murray poked the ball away from James as he was about to take it to the hoop, and Jokic retrieved the loose ball before being fouled with 10.9 ticks left on the clock. Again, Murray poked the ball away from James as he was ready to take it to the hoop. As time ran out, he was successful with one of two shots, but James had a miss from three.
The top-seeded Nuggets will host Game 2 on Thursday night at Ball Arena, where they have a perfect record of 7-0 in the playoffs and an overall record of 41-7, which is the best home record in the NBA for this season.
Jokic had warned the day before that the Nuggets had to avoid making the same mistake as the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors, who both lost their home opener to the Lakers and ended up losing in a best-of-seven series.
In addition, James has been victorious in the last 20 postseason series in which his team has taken the first game.
Since 1979, when they won the first game of a best-of-three series against the Nuggets but then went on to lose the next two games, the Nuggets had yet to win Game 1 against the Lakers. That is the closest that the Nuggets have ever come to eliminating the Lakers, who have defeated Denver three times in the West finals, including in the Florida bubble in 2020. That is the closest that the Nuggets have ever come to eliminating the Lakers.
Jokic put on a breathtaking display of power in the first quarter, scoring eight points, grabbing a dozen rebounds, and dishing out five assists in addition to his scoring total. This highlighted his credentials as a candidate for Most Valuable Player. Because of this, he became the first player in the NBA playoffs since at least 1997 to have at least five assists and twelve or more rebounds in any quarter of an NBA playoff game.
Jokic responded with an off-balance 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Davis that barely fluttered the net at the buzzer, leaving Davis to hobble back to the bench in shock as the Lakers used an 11-2 run to narrow the lead to 11 points. The Lakers had cut the gap to 11 points after an 11-2 run by themselves.
The “Joker,” who came close to winning his third consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player title this season but fell short to Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, had 19 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks by the end of the first half as the Nuggets carried a 72-54 lead into the locker room. The Nuggets went on to win the game.
The Nuggets won the first game of their playoff series against the Lakers for the first time in eight attempts because Jokic single-handedly outrebounded the Lakers 16-13 in the first half.
PLENTY OF POINTS
It was the highest-scoring conference finals game that didn’t go into overtime since 1987, when Detroit defeated Boston 145-119 without it. The game had a total of 258 points scored by both teams.
Just in time for the second half, a shot clock that had been acting erratically was fixed, and it was returned to its proper location above the baskets. Unfortunately, because of a technical issue, the referees at Ball Arena had to install a timer at both ends of the court during the first half of the game. As a result, James, Jokic, and the rest of the players had to adjust their attention differently because they usually look slightly up from where they’re shooting to determine how much time remains in the game. As a result, they were required to direct their attention to the right side of the baseline during the first half.
James’ basket in the game’s opening minutes gave the Lakers their only lead of the game… The Lakers’ playoff run ended with a defeat at the hands of the Nuggets for just the ninth time in 34 attempts… Darvin Ham, the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, was unsuccessful in his late challenge, which was the second one of the fourth quarter and took excessive time for the officials to decide.
Nuggets: Denver secured 20 of the first 23 rebounds available throughout the contest. Anderson Varejao of Cleveland was the only player since 1997 to do what Nikola Jokic did in the first quarter. He blitzed the Wizards for 12 rebounds and five assists in a regular-season game in October 2012. The Nuggets called timeout just before the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter. After the timeout, it was decided that Murray’s 3-pointer was a 2-pointer, which reduced Denver’s lead to 108-100.