Nikola Jokić leads Nuggets past Lakers in Game 1 of Western Conference Finals: How will LA react?

The Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 132-126 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Two-time MVP Nikola Jokić notched his 12th career playoff triple-double with 34 points, 21 rebounds, 14 assists and two blocks.
  • Lakers star Anthony Davis scored a game-high 40 points with 10 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.
  • Denver takes a 1-0 series lead with Game 2 scheduled for Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET.

AthleticismInstant analysis of:

Jokic’s dominance

Jokić could be the best player in the world by a significant margin. A 30-point triple-double, with 20 rebounds – those are stupid numbers. But, the impact he has on the pace of play and the control of each possession might even be greater than that.

The way he played tonight, no one on earth could stop him. If he stays at this level, the Nuggets are going to be very tough to beat. —Jones

How Denver got the win

Shot, shot, shot. Denver has hit more than half of its shots from the field. They made almost half of their 3-point looks, and they were great from the free throw line. The key to it all being that a lot of those looks were contested, especially in the second half.

There were a lot of lay-ups, but those came in the first half. So what is real?

It’s just not possible to think the Nuggets can pull off like that for seven games. But their first half attack was good enough for the film to show what they did right. In Game 2, Denver needs to channel that more often.

You don’t want to have to try to win a streak by doing fadeaways with one hand constantly in your face. —Jones

How will LA react to a series deficit?

For the first time this playoffs, the Lakers are trailing in a playoff series. Los Angeles had won Game 1 against Memphis and Golden State, then won Games 3 and 4 to go up 3-1 before closing at home in Game 6. The Lakers were the aggressors, picking up the first hauler.

Now they’re back against the wall, facing a daunting 0-2 deficit if they can’t steal Game 2 against a Denver team that is 7-0 at home in the playoffs. Los Angeles can leave this game feeling confident with their adjustments and second-half performance, but this will be the first time they’ve been tested in this way. – Chip

Adjustments fuel second-half comeback

The Lakers made two key second-half adjustments that helped propel their comeback in the fourth quarter. First, Darvin Ham traded Rui Hachimura on Jokić, allowing Davis to move around as a defender and rebounder. The tweak halted the Nuggets’ offensive rebound and paint points.

Then James targeted Murray in high pick-and-rolls, resulting in fouls, inside baskets for James and Davis, and kick passes to Reaves, who was often the screener, for 3. Expect what Los Angeles sticks to the two adjustments in Game 2 until Denver counters. – Chip


Jokić’s dominance began as soon as he stepped on the floor on Tuesday, racking up 19 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks in the first half. He shot 12 of 17 from the field, 3 of 3 from 3-point range and 7 of 8 from the free throw line. Jamal Murray had 31 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

LeBron James nearly had a triple-double with 26 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Guard Austin Reaves also finished in double figures with 23 points and eight assists.

Climax of the game

Key statistics

Jokić is the first player in NBA history with multiple career playoff games of 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970) and Wilt Chamberlain (1967) have done so once.

The Nuggets outshot the Lakers 47-30, with a 15-5 advantage on the offensive glass.

Required reading

(Photo: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Leave a Comment