The Denver Nuggets, the first seed in the West, held firm and notched their first win against the Lakers, who qualified for the playoffs in the playoffs, but whose morale skyrocketed after eliminating the Warriors.
Riding on a huge triple-double from their star Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets pulled off a comeback win over the Los Angeles Lakers 132-126 in the start of the NBA Western Conference Finals on Tuesday.
Jokic posted an astonishing record of 34 points (12/17 from the field), 21 rebounds and 14 assists as he emerged victorious from a fast-paced duel against Lakers center Anthony Davis, who finished with 40 points and 10 assists. ended up with
LeBron James had 26 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists for the Lakers, who forced a tight finish despite falling behind by 21 points.
Denver, the first seed in the West, held firm down the stretch and picked up its first win against a Los Angeles team that qualified for the playoffs but has sky-high morale after eliminating the Grizzlies and Warriors.
“In the first half we were very good, we controlled the game, the rhythm, the defense, everything. And then in the second half we lost the balance that we had in the first half,” Jokic said.
“We knew they were going to come back, they’re a tough team. But it doesn’t matter if you win by one point or 20 at this point in the year, a win’s a win.”
LeBron James, on his part, said, “It took us half the time to get into this game, and it was too much.” “He punched us in the face to start us off and won the game in 48 minutes.”
“They are 1-0 up and we have to react strongly in the second game. We have to play better,” demanded the experienced forward.
Although their squires were up to the task, especially point guard Jamal Murray (31 points), Jokic was once again the fulcrum of the Nuggets’ game and continues to record statistics that few in the NBA have matched. emulated.
His triple-double on Tuesday was the fourth career playoff record with at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, a feat no other player in history has accomplished.
The Serbian, a two-time winner of the MVP award, was second in the voting this year behind Joel Embiid (Sixers), but has yet to find a shader in these playoffs.
“He’s a player with many skills, as his numbers show. He’s hit a lot of hard shots. We’ve got to make it tough for him,” said Anthony Davis. He said, ‘He has played well throughout the season and especially in these playoffs. You have to take off your hat”.
With fervent support from the stands, Jokic didn’t wait a second to deploy his influence on both sides of the field, and he already had 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks in the first quarter, the most of any player. did not achieve in a quarter. in the last 25 years.
With the direction of the Serb and frantic turnovers controlled by Murray, the Nuggets opened up a 20-point lead by the first quarter against the completely outmatched Lakers.
At halftime, Jokic had more rebounds (16) than any Los Angeles player (13) combined, and midway through the third quarter he had already scored his sixth triple-double in these playoffs.
Only the legendary Wilt Chamberlain achieved more triple doubles in a single post season with his seven in 1967.
However, the Lakers capitalized on the resilience they showed in the playoffs and refused to give up the win early.
Davis, backed by LeBron and Rui Hachimura (17 points), pushed the Lakers below the 10-point barrier, but Jokic struck another moral blow in the third quarter with a spectacular three-pointer from far away at the buzzer.
Last quarter, last try
The Lakers began their final effort in the final quarter with two consecutive three-pointers by Austin Reeves (23 points) that put them only three points behind (127–124) with two minutes remaining.
LeBron then missed the tying 3-pointer and Jokic made three crucial free throws to seal the win for the Nuggets, who are seeking to avenge that same round elimination in the 2020 playoffs.
«Many of our boys are hardened in a thousand battles, we have also been in many matches. I don’t think there was any panic, just balance,” Denver coach Michael Malone said of the Lakers’ eventual threat.
The second game of the tie, the best of seven, will be played again on Thursday at the Nuggets’ Ball Arena. The Eastern Conference Finals begin on Wednesday with the Miami Heat visiting the Boston Celtics.