On their third try this post-season, the Lakers finally won Game 1 of a playoff series. Picture: Mark J. Terrill/AP
On their third try this post-season, the Lakers finally won Game 1 of a playoff series. Picture: Mark J. Terrill/AP

Anthony Davis and LeBron James power Lakers' Game 1 win over Nuggets

By DPA Time of article published Sep 19, 2020

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LOS ANGELES - On their third try this post-season, the Lakers finally won Game 1 of a playoff series.

They beat the Denver Nuggets, 126-114, in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

They got 15 points and 12 assists from LeBron James and a 37-point, 10-rebound game from Anthony Davis.

"Just telling me to be aggressive," Davis said during a post-game interview on TNT. "They told me in order for us to get to where we want to go, they're going to have to lean on me. ... Obviously the first time I've been in this situation, Western Conference finals. It was new to me but once the ball gets thrown up, I'm ready to go."

Vogel promised to use his centers more against the Nuggets than he did in the Lakers' series against the Houston Rockets. He started 7-footer JaVale McGee, after moving away from McGee to close out the previous series. McGee opened the first quarter by swatting away Nuggets center Nikola Jokic's first shot attempt.

Jokic, though, recovered from the early setback, even while facing Lakers' double teams. He finished the first quarter with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists. The Lakers trailed, 38-36, after the first quarter with a 3 at the buzzer by Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.

James tweaked his ankle early in the second quarter after stepping on Nuggets forward Jerami Grant's foot, but didn't appear injured for long. Moments later, he scored with a powerful two-handed dunk to give the Lakers a 42-38 edge, capping a 6-0 run to start the second quarter.

They tightened their grip further from there. A 6-0 run became a 17-1 run. Not until 6:48 remained in the second quarter did the Nuggets score their first field goal of the period.

Their turnaround had a lot to do with Dwight Howard, the backup center who only played 15 minutes in the entire series against the Rockets. He played eight minutes in the second quarter and the Lakers outscored the Nuggets by 16 during his time on the court. He's aggressiveness earned him eight free throws in the second quarter alone _ overall the Lakers shot 24 second-quarter free throws and missed 10 of them.

The Nuggets remained within striking distance despite their struggles in the second quarter. Their two stars, Jokic and Murray, sat on the bench with three fouls, but the Lakers couldn't break open the game.

In the locker room at halftime, with the Lakers up 70-59, Vogel used the Socratic method to remind his team not to underestimate Denver despite its lead.

"What is this team known for?" Vogel said.

"Second-half comebacks," his players replied.

It wouldn't be that kind of night for Denver. With a Davis dunk off a Nuggets turnover in the third quarter, the Lakers took a 22-point lead - their largest of the game.

With three Denver players swarming him, Davis pushed the lead again with 38 seconds left in the third quarter, knocking down a hook shot for a 23-point advantage.

By the end of the third quarter, Davis had 33 points, Jokic had five fouls and the Lakers had little to worry about.

As the fourth quarter progressed, the Nuggets never got much closer. Rondo threw up a trick shot around the back of the backboard, finishing with nine assists and seven points with two steals.

Their Game 1 win was just a start - the Denver Nuggets don't just play the second halves of games well, in these playoffs they've dominated the second halves of series.

In a pregame locker room speech broadcast over television, Denver coach Mike Malone reminded his team that they were an uncommon group.

"Keep on making history, fellas," Malone said to the players who had orchestrated two comebacks from 3-1 deficits this postseason. "Keep on making history."

The Lakers, though, were also interested in history, and Denver's past was not going to stop them.


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