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Recap: Lakers defeat Nuggets in Game 1 of Western Conference finals

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Lakers star LeBron James dunks during the first half against the Denver Nuggets.
Lakers star LeBron James dunks during the first half against the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Friday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

LeBron James and the Lakers put on a show in a 126-114 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Friday night.

After losing in Game 1 to the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets, the Lakers didn’t let a six-day break between games slow them down against the Denver Nuggets.

Behind 37 points from Anthony Davis and 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds from LeBron James, the Lakers defeated the Nuggets 126-114 in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in Orlando on Friday.

Lakers cruise to Game 1 victory over Nuggets

The Lakers won their first series opener of the 2020 playoffs with a dominant 125-114 victory over the Nuggets. The Lakers led by as many as 27 points and never trailed after the first quarter as they surged ahead with a 20-3 run to begin the second.

With his team up comfortably, LeBron James left the bench area with about two minutes remaining, presumably to begin his postgame treatment regimen. He turned an ankle in the second quarter, but it did not slow him down as he finished with 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes.

Anthony Davis had 37 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for the Lakers while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 18 points, including three three-pointers. Rajon Rondo had seven points and nine assists with no turnovers.

The Lakers shot 53% from the field, compared to the Nuggets’ 48.4%.

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray led Denver with 21 points each, although both struggled with foul trouble. Jokic added six rebounds but just two assists with five fouls. Murray had five assists and four fouls.

The Lakers dominated the Nuggets during the second half to win Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Friday night in Orlando, Fla.

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Activate Playoff Rondo

Rajon Rondo’s postseason legend grows as the Lakers stay on top of the Nuggets midway through the fourth quarter.

The reserve guard famous for hitting a different gear in the playoffs has nine assists, no turnovers and seven points, no basket more impressive than his over the backboard floater.

The Lakers lead 115-93 with 6:41 left in the fourth quarter.

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Rajon Rondo moves past Michael Jordan on playoff assist list

Lakers guard Rajon Rondo makes a pass during the second half of Game 1.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

WIth seven assists (so far) tonight, Rajon Rondo passed Michael Jordan for 10th on the NBA’s all-time playoff assists list with 1,023, according to the Lakers.

Rondo has seven assists and five points with no turnovers in 19 minutes off the bench as the Lakers lead 109-92 with 8:08 to go.

After trailing by as many as 27 points, the Nuggets are on an 8-0 run, with the last four points coming from Michael Porter Jr. The rookie was scoreless in the first half, but has 11 points in the second half as the Nuggets struggle with foul trouble to their stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, who each have 21 points. Jokic has five fouls and Murray has four.

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Lakers extend lead in third quarter

The Lakers are running away, quite literally.

With 13 fast -break points compared to two for the Nuggets, the Lakers lead 103-79 going into the fourth quarter. The Lakers pushed the pace, even on made baskets by the Nuggets, to open their largest lead of the game.

Rajon Rondo has sparked the Lakers offense off the bench with seven assists, connecting with Dwight Howard for big dunks on alley-oop plays. Howard, who was played the majority of the second half in JaVale McGee’s place, has 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field.

Anthony Davis leads the Lakers with 33 points and 10 rebounds.

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LeBron James pushing toward triple-double

Lakers forward LeBron James looks to pass during the second half of Game 1.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

LeBron James notched his 10th and 11th asissts of the night on back-to-back possessions, finding Dwight Howard for a layup before setting up Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a transition three-pointer. The three-pointer, Caldwell-Pope’s third, put the Lakers up 86-69 with 4:59 to go in the third, the team’s largest lead of the game.

James now has 15 points, 11 assists and six rebounds with just one turnover.

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Nuggets’ Jokic picks up fourth foul as Lakers stay ahead

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic  and head coach Michael Malone reacts to a call by referee Courtney Kirkland.
Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and head coach Michael Malone reacts to a call by referee Courtney Kirkland.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Nikola Jokic picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, neutralizing the Nuggets’ star center. The Lakers have kept their 11-point advantage, leading 78-67 with 6:41 to go in the third.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is up to double-digit points with 11 after a three-pointer early in the third quarter. Anthony Davis still leads the Lakers with 19 points and seven rebounds. LeBron James has 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Jamal Murray, who has three fouls, leads Denver with 21 points.

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Second half underway with Lakers ahead by 11

Lakers forward LeBron James pulls up for a shot during Game 1.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Lakers start the second half with a double-digit lead, 70-59, but Lakers coach Frank Vogel reminded his team at halftime that their work is not done.

The TNT broadcast showed Vogel talking to his team in the locker room. He reminded them that the Nuggets got to this point by starring in second halves.

Dwight Howard gets the second-half start over JaVale McGee and quickly turned it into a dunk for the Lakers’ first points after the break.

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Lakers lead at halftime after strong second quarter

Lakers guard Danny Green comes up with a steal against Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the first half of Game 1.
Lakers guard Danny Green comes up with a steal against Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the first half of Game 1.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Lakers lead 70-59 at intermission, holding off a late first-half surge from the Nuggets. The Lakers led by as many as 15 points in the first half, thanks in part to a 20-3 run to start the second quarter, but the Nuggets, even with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray sidelined because of three fouls, cut the lead to eight briefly.

Perhaps the 15-point deficit was exactly what the Nuggets were hoping for. The young team seems to specialize in comebacks. Ask the Clippers and Jazz, who both had 3-1 series leads this postseason.

Anthony Davis leads the Lakers with 17 points, five assists and two rebounds, with nine points coming from on free throws. LeBron James has 15 points, four rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers have taken twice as many free throws as the Nuggets (32 attempts for the Lakers compared to 16 for Denver) but are shooting just 68.8% from the free-throw line.

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Foul trouble sidelines Nuggets stars in first half as Lakers maintain lead

Nuggets center Mason Plumlee fouls Lakers forward Anthony Davis during a rebound in the first half of Game 1.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

With the Lakers leading 65-53 with 1:57 to go in the second quarter, foul trouble is plaguing the Nuggets as Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap all picked up three fouls in the first half.

Murray was sidelined with less than four minutes remaining before halftime with 15 points and four assists. Millsap had five points and four rebounds before sitting.

Anthony Davis and LeBron James are leading the Lakers with 16 and 12 points, respectively.

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Lakers open big lead in second quarter

Lakers forward LeBron James dunks the ball during the second quarter of Game 1.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Lakers started the second quarter with a 19-3 run, taking a 55-41 lead with 6:25 to go. The Nuggets didn’t score their first field goal of the quarter until a dunk from Mason Plumlee at the 6:49 mark.

Markieff Morris, who shot 50% from three-point range in the Lakers’ series against the Rockets, continued his sharp shooting with two three-pointers in the run.

Frustrations started to show for the Nuggets as Nikola Jokic picked up his third foul with 7:19 left in the second quarter and Jamal Murray picked up a technical foul.

Jokic, who was tangled with the Lakers’ Dwight Howard during the second quarter, had 11 points, five rebounds and two assists at the time with this team down by 13 points.

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LeBron James tweaks ankle, shakes it off with a dunk

LeBron James stepped on the foot of Nuggets forward Jerami Grant during the first 30 seconds of the second quarter and appeared to tweak his left ankle as he fell to the court. He stayed on his hands and knees briefly after the incident before casually tightening the laces on his shoes.

That’s apparently all it took to heal himself because a few plays later he slammed a two-handed dunk to put the Lakers ahead 42-38 with 10:42 to go in the second quarter. The Lakers started the second quarter with a 6-0 run.

James has just five points, but has dished four assists with two rebounds.

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Nuggets inch ahead after first quarter with Jamal Murray three-pointer

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray drives to the basket for a layup during Game 1.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Jamal Murray’s buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the first quarter put the Nuggets ahead by two points, 38-36. The Nuggets star guard has nine points and four assists.

Looks like we might be in for a track meet tonight as both teams came out firing. The Lakers, led by 14 points from Anthony Davis, are shooting 59.1% from the field. Denver is even better at 63.6%.

Nikola Jokic played all but 1:13 of the first quarter, leading the Nuggets with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists.

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Anthony Davis leading the way in the first

Lakers forward Anthony Davis attempts a shot over Nuggets defenders during Game 1.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Nuggets scored five consecutive points out of the media timeout, including a three-pointer from Paul Millsap that tied the score, but the Lakers pushed back in front 21-17 with 4:24 to go in the first quarter.

Anthony Davis is off to a strong start for the Lakers with eight points and three rebounds. He is 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo have entered the game off the bench, with Rondo quickly dishing out two assists in his first minute of action.


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Lakers go inside early

Lakers center JaVale McGee blocks a shot Nuggets guard Jam byal Murray during Game 1.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Lakers lead the Nuggets 13-8 with 6:56 to go in the first quarter, with 10 of the Lakers’ points coming in the paint.

The Lakers are moving the ball well early, notching assists on each of their first five field goals while the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic has six of his team’s first eight points.

Four of the Lakers’ five starters have scored. Just JaVale McGee is scoreless at the first media timeout.

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Nuggets get on the board first

The Nuggets opened the scoring as the game gets underway. The Lakers returned to their typical starting lineup with JaVale McGee.

The 7-foot center was limited in the previous round against the Rockets as the Lakers catered more toward the Rockets’ smaller lineups.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said McGee and reserve center Dwight Howard will see plenty of action against Denver.

“They’ll both get their opportunities,” Vogel said before the game Friday night. “I do intend to play both of them and utilize our size. They are a little bit unique, from the standpoint of Jokic does play offensively like a seven-footer. He’s at the three-point line a ton, so we’ll have a mix of both big lineups and lineups with Anthony (Davis) at the five, maybe even Markieff Morris at the five. We’ll throw a lot of different looks at Nikola and just measure how we’re having success with all those lineups throughout the series.”

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Lakers vs. Nuggets: What to expect from the series

Lakers star LeBron James signals during a game against the Houston Rockets on Sept. 12.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

ORLANDO — The top-seeded Lakers will open the Western Conference finals tonight against the surprising and resilient Denver Nuggets in a series few saw coming.

Stars to Watch


The Lakers have their veteran studs in LeBron James and Anthony Davis while the Nuggets counter with youth in All-Star center Nikola Jokic and a rising star in guard Jamal Murray. James has been on a tear in the playoffs, ranking third in the NBA in assists (8.8 per game), ninth in scoring (26.6) and 11th in rebounding (10.3), and his defense has been outstanding. Davis has been inconsistent scoring-wise, but he’s still ranked seventh in the playoffs in points (27.6) and eighth in rebounds (10.9). Jokic has been nearly impossible to contain, knocking down three-pointers, posting up, passing, all leading to him averaging 26.1 points per game, 9.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Murray is tied for 10th in the playoffs in scoring (26.1), and he’s averaging 6.5 assists per game and shooting 49.5% from three-point range.

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Charles Barkley ‘guarantees’ Lakers series victory

The Lakers have Charles Barkley’s vote of confidence during the Western Conference finals, but the Hall of Famer’s “guarantee” hasn’t meant much this postseason.

During the TNT pregame show for Game 1, Barkley put his signature “GUAR-AN-TEE” stamp on the Lakers, saying he will “bet every dime I have in this world” on the No. 1 seed to advance.

Perhaps the Lakers should be worried, though, as Barkley’s picks seem to carry a jinx this year. A collection of Barkley’s other"guarantees” this season:

  • The Portland Trail Blazers would make it to the Finals. They lost in the first round to the Lakers.
  • The Indiana Pacers would win Game 3 against the Miami Heat in the first round. They got swept.
  • The Clippers would sweep the Nuggets. They lost in seven.

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Dwight Howard keeps his focus on the best way to help Lakers win the title

Lakers center Dwight Howard reacts after a slam dunk against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Lakers center Dwight Howard reacts after a slam dunk against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

As the NBA bubble crystallized and teams began committing to going, the Lakers had two players who hesitated to join the team in Orlando, Fla. The first was Avery Bradley, who opted to stay home. The second was Dwight Howard, who eventually decided he would go into the bubble.

But it wasn’t a decision made lightly, nor was it one without consequences.

“There’s nowhere to go, there’s no way to release anything,” Howard said. “Any feeling that you might have, it’s just like we’re stuck. So, just try to find joy in the fact that I have my son with me, the fact that all we have to do is win eight games to win a championship. … That is very difficult, seeing the same walls every day.”

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Nikola Jokic warms up his shot for Game 1

The Times’ reporters Brad Turner and Dan Woike are keeping a close eye on Nuggets star Nikola Jokic during warmups from inside the bubble. Turner arrived in Orlando earlier this month.

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Courtside view for Game 1 of Lakers vs. Nuggets

The Times’ NBA reporter, Dan Woike, has been inside the bubble for about a month. This is the view he has for games.

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Nuggets’ Jamal Murray is more than a shooting star: He’s a leader

Denver's Jamal Murray puts up a shot during the Nuggets' Game 6 win over the Clippers.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Seven years after leaving New Orleans as an assistant, Michael Malone connected his former point guard there with the burgeoning lead guard of his new team in Denver during the summer of 2018.

Malone wanted Jamal Murray to visit Chris Paul at his summer camp in Winston-Salem, N.C., for several reasons. As a teenage star from Toronto’s suburbs, an All-SEC freshman during his lone season at Kentucky, and a rookie NBA season in 2016-17 during which he backed up Denver’s off-guard, Gary Harris, Murray primarily played around the perimeter but off the ball.

Paul, regarded as one of the NBA’s great point guards, could teach the mechanics of the position like few others. Yet learning how to read the pick-and-roll play was just step one.

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Lakers vs. Nuggets: How the teams match up for Western Conference finals

Lakers forward Anthony Davis reacts after dunking on the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis reacts after dunking on the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals on Sept. 8.
(Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

A look at how the No. 1-seeded Lakers and No. 3-seeded Denver Nuggets match up in the Western Conference finals:

STARTERS

Lakers | Nuggets

Player; Ht.; Pos.; Ht.; Player

LeBron James; 6-9; F; 6-8; Jerami Grant

Anthony Davis; 6-10; F; 6-7; Paul Millsap

JaVale McGee; 7-0; C; 7-0 Nikola Jokic

Danny Green; 6-6;, G; 6-4; Gary Harris

K. Caldwell-Pope; 6-6; G; 6-4; Jamal Murray

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Lakers ready to adjust lineup to counter Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and coach Michael Malone celebrate.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, left, and coach Michael Malone celebrate their playoff series win over the Clippers on Tuesday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

LeBron James knows a thing or two about clawing back from a 3-1 deficit in a playoff series, having done it in the 2016 NBA Finals. So when he saw the Denver Nuggets do that not once, but twice, while inside the bubble, he had an idea of what it took.

“Very resilient, very confident, very driven, very well-coached team,” James said. “It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ballclub. That’s how we’re going into this series, understanding what they’re capable of, where they stand.”

On Friday the Lakers will begin their Western Conference finals series against a Nuggets team that has been thoughtof as an underdog for much of the playoffs, despite entering the postseason as the No. 3 seed. They needed comeback efforts in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz and their second-round series against the Clippers. Those teams fell victim to something the Lakers will seek to counteract — the unique challenges posed by talented center Nikola Jokic.

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