The Denver Nuggets took care of business on their home court Tuesday night, taking Game 1 of the Western Conference finals from the Los Angeles Lakers, 132-126.
But it wasn’t easy, as they had to survive a strong Lakers charge in the second half.
At first, it looked like the Nuggets were going to run away with the game after heading into halftime with a 72-54 lead.
Los Angeles, as they showed the Golden State Warriors in the previous series, can be relentless in the second half – and they were just that with clutch shots and tighter defense.
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Austin Reaves’ three-pointer with 2:18 left in the fourth quarter made it a 127-124 game in favor of Denver, and LeBron James had a chance to tie the game when he launched a three of his own down 129-126, but it rimmed out.
The Lakers had just seven turnovers in the game, but one came on a crucial possession down five points with just seconds left to play. James lost the handle and Nikola Jokic, the MVP runner-up this season, took it away to essentially ice the game with his free throws.
LA knew they would have to stop two-time MVP winner Jokic for any chance at competing in the NBA finals, and now they are certainly going to have to go back to the drawing board.
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Jokic was an animal to start this game and his production remained steady throughout. He was close to a triple-double in the first half after dropping 19 points with 16 rebounds and seven assists.
As he did in Games 5 and 6 against the Phoenix Suns in the semifinals, he ended Tuesday night with a triple-double – marking three consecutive games accomplishing the feat.
Jokic finished with 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists to lead the Nuggets in all threecategories. Thanks to Jokic’s effort, Denver ended up out-rebounding the Lakers, 47-30, on the night.
Jamal Murray was also highly productive on the offensive end, dropping 31 points with five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also had 21 points, while Michael Porter Jr. dropped 15 and Aaron Gordon tallied 12.
James almost joined Jokic with a triple-double after totaling 26 points with 12 rebounds and nine assists. Anthony Davis lead the game with 40 points on 14-of-23 shooting, contributing 10 boards for a double-double as well.
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Reaves shot well once again, going 5-of-9 from three and 7-of-14 from the field for 23 points and eight assists. Rui Hachimura added 17 points off the bench on a highly efficient 8-of-11 from the field.
In fact, both teams shot the ball very well on the night. Los Angeles shot 54.8% overall and 45.8% from three-point territory, but Denver was slightly better at 54.9% overall and 46.9% from three.
Overall, this series is already showing NBA fans that no lead is ever safe and this will be a fun matchup to watch.
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Game 2 will tip off Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. ET at Ball Arena.