Nikola Jokic Nabs A 34-point triple-double, Jamal Murray adds 31 and Denver spoils Anthony Davis' 40-point performance.
Denver -A collective sigh of relief that flowed through the Ball Arena as fans flooded the outward stairs that celebrated the Nuggets' survival of Tuesday's132-126 thrillerover the Lakers in Game 1 of theWestern Conference Finals.
"We are up 1-0, so it beats the Alternative," said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. "We protected our home ground, and victories are hard to get at this time of the season."
Nikola Jokic certainly eased the burden by logging his third consecutive triple-double of the playoffs—34 points, 21 rebounds, 14 assists—and sixth on the club's current streak. Jokic ties Magic Johnson (1982) and Draymond Green (2019) for the second-most triple-doubles in a single postseason. The Nuggets' center now ranks as the only player in NBA history to tally multiple 30-point, 20-rebound triple-doubles (Hall of Famers such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar only achieved it once).
Jokic did it through merciless aggression from the start, poured in 19 points with 16 rebounds, seven assists and two blocksDuring the course of a first halfWhere Denver stacked an 18-point lead. The big man now ranks as just the second NBA player who produced 15-plus points and 15-plus rebounds in the first half of an endgame (Tim Duncan scored 22 points with 16 rebounds against Lakersin West Semis in 2002).
"It's an end game we have to be aggressive," Jokic said. "We have to win the game, especially in front of our home crowd, because [Lakers] won two games 1s [on the road] .to be aggressive, thatis usually right now."
It also turned out to be crucial to building a small pillow for a drought in the fourth quarterwith 3:23 back to play.Los Angeles' only lead in the night (2-0) came on a LeBron James drive to the bucket to start the match, but Lakers climbed uphill the rest of the way and ended strongly with 72 points over the third and fourth quarters.
Here are five quick takeaways from Tuesday's Game 2:
1. Battle of the Bigs
JOKIC receives the nod here for his game 1 performance in undoubtedLeading on the strength of a combined 16 points from the two-time KIA MVP and Aaron Gordon. DENTER OUTSCORED THE VISITORS LAKERS 18-12 IN THE PAINTING IN THE FIRST QUARTER and connects to 50% (9-for-18) from this area when JokicPut an early tone of physicality that visitors would not match until late iconkurrence.
Remember that the nuggets entered Game 1 after taking 53% of their shots up to this point from the paint that ranked as the highest rate for any team in the playoffs and they connected 57.2%. It is also worthNotice that Los Angeles marched into the conference finals that limited teams to 50.9% shooting from the paint (second lowest in the NBA) and that Mark fell to 47.9% with Davis on the field.
Apparently Jokic didn't realize or didn't care about the latter in the first half because the 28-year-old made it a point to aggressively attack his lakers counterpart. Jokic smashed the gas on several powerful drives, resulting in two dunks in the first half, evenSurprisingly Davis on a couple by removing him from the rejection.
"On his first post-up they double-sustained," Malone said. "They sent an extra body on him early. We had a good example we showed at the break where they double-held him, [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] cut to the curve andGot a layup. Then they started protecting him 1-on-1. When he felt there was 1-on-1 cover, [he got up, he came up, came to the basket and used the underrated athletics forto quit in traffic. It was nice to see."
The diversity of Jokic's offense in the first halfLeft Davis GuessTrying to anticipate the Denver center's next move, it likely played a role in the 28-year-old running upAn almost triple-dualover the first two quarters.
It's a victory for the home team.
"I don't think you can close any aspect of his game and expect to be OK," said Laker's coach Darvin him. "You just have to come in and have a big preliminary defender on him and the other four guys,It's ready to hit and just do their jobs and again, be early for your spots, because if you need to play pick up, Dejeg kills you every time."
Despite Denver's fast start, Malone pointed to the team's second-half lapse. The Nuggets outscored the visitors 30-24 in the paint in the first half and 16-8 in second-chance points during that span, while outscoring the Lakers 36-13. Second half told a different story with the Lakers outscoring in rebounding (17-11), points in the paint (24-20) and second chance (5-2).
"We were kind of to impose our will on the glass [in the first half], but it must be in four quarters," Malone said. "It just can't be in half."
Relive some of the best plays from Nikola Jokic & Anthony Davis in Game 1.
2. Key 2. Half
Los Angeles threw several looks at Jokic throughout the first half with a little success as Nuggets-Center Block. But him threw an adjustment late in game 1, which Jokic and Nuggets should trust to watch again in this whole series.
After Jokic poured into 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting with five assists in the third quarter, he deployed him Rui Hachimura as a primary defender at the Nuggets Center, while Davis Roamed the paint freely to help Jokic drive.
"Something that we just went for, a little adjustment," Davis said. "We ended up liking it."
In a fourth quarter in which Los Angeles pulled within three points, the Lakers limited Jokic to 0-for-2 from the field as Jamal Murray closed out the game.Murray scored eight points in the fourth quarter and finished with 31 (on12-to-20 shooting).
"They definitely had us on our heels," Malone said. "They became the aggressor and turned the tide in this game with how aggressive they played. Late in the game, they put Rui on Nikola and they were just [with the help of] Anthony Davis [as a free safety] that let him man the paint and make it look really crowded. Our execution could be better. But we made enough big plays down the stretch on both ends of the floor to win the game. "
Lakers 'might trip over something' in Game 1 loss to Nuggets
3. Fast road start prevented
Lakers stole victories in their first road fight in the previous two playoff series, an averageExtension due to aggressive starts from Jokic and Murray that shot7-for-11 in the first half(17 Point), when Nuggets build an 18-point half-time management.
Denver won his seventh right at the Ball Arena in the playoffs, the team's longest home victory to start a postal season.
"We haven't lost a home game in the playoffs," Malone said. "They haven't lost a home game in the playoffs. We told our team that they went to Memphis, went to Golden State and won Game 1 [in] both of those series and battled home court advantage from both of those teams. But for us, it's about maintaining the same course we're on, the same mindset, and going out there and doing our job to the best of our ability."
4. Denver hits most of the major targets
Phoenix ran roughshod over Denver in transition to a few games into the Western Conference semifinals, and Los Angeles has one of the league's most devastating bigs in Davis, leading a Lakers team that practically lived at the free-throw line during the regular season ( 26.6 attempts per game).So naturally, Malone emphasized keeping the Lakers in transition, keeping them off the line and controlling the paint in the team's prep work heading into the conference finals.
Denver delivered a few goals to start this series.Nuggets Outscored Los Angeles 19-13 in transition (17 of these points came in the first half) and knocked Lakers 47-30 on the glass, but ended with a plus-to-edge in paint scoring(50-48) Mensundlader to keep visitors away from the free throwing line.LOS Angeles were an average-Fire edge in free throwing experiments (26-22) and drained 88.5%.
Heading into Game 2, the Nuggets have a chance to reverse the Lakers' early streak.
5. Top O vs. top D
Something has to give here, and in Game 1, Denver struck first by flexing the power of its electric offense against Los Angeles' slick defense. The Nuggets scored 118.7 points per game. 100 possessions through the first two rounds of the playoffs, which ranked No. 1 in the NBA entering the West Finals.The Lakers surrendered just 106.5 points per game. 100 possessions in that same span, good for the NBA's best defensive efficiency in the playoffs, as they held Memphis and Golden State to 42.2% shooting over 12 contests.
Denver's 132 points in Game 1, which is registered as the most, it has scored this postal season, and the club's 106 points through the first three frames set a franchise post for most points through three quarters. Nuggets Top Three Scorers in Jokic, Murray and Caldwell-Pope combined to 86 points, while Lakers' tall scored trio by James, Davis and Reaves came together for 89 points. In all, Denver included six double figures scorers compared to four for Los Angeles.
The game 1 only marked the 12th time in the Denver franchise story, which two nuggets scored 30 points or more in the same competition.
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Michael C. Wright is senior author of nba.com.u can e-mail himher, find his archiveherAnd follow him onTwitter.
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