Nikola Jokić delivered an exceptional performance in the first half, showcasing his skills and leading the Nuggets to a 132-126 victory over the Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in Denver on Tuesday.
The Nuggets displayed dominance throughout the game and held a commanding 21-point lead in the third quarter. However, the Lakers staged an impressive comeback in the fourth quarter, going on a 9-0 run to narrow the gap to 124-121. They stayed within three points until the final minute of the game. Fortunately for the Nuggets, Jokić’s clutch free throws with 26.3 seconds remaining extended their lead to five, effectively fending off the Lakers’ rally.
Jokić delivered a spectacular triple-double performance, amassing 34 points, 21 rebounds, 14 assists, and 2 blocks. Remarkably, he outrebounded the entire Lakers team by himself in the first half. Anthony Davis countered for the Lakers with 18 points at halftime and finished the game with an impressive 40 points, along with 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. However, despite Davis’ standout performance, it was not enough to propel the Lakers to a remarkable comeback.
From the start, the Nuggets took control of the game. Just four minutes in, Jamal Murray sank a 3-pointer, giving Denver a 14-7 lead. By that point, every Nuggets starter had contributed points. Moments later, they embarked on an 8-0 run, extending their lead to 22-9.
Jokić took charge of the offense, attacking the paint and dominating the rebounds. By the end of the first quarter, he had accumulated 8 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists. Impressively, six of his rebounds came from offensive plays, securing second chances for the Nuggets on nearly half of their 15 missed shots in the first quarter. Consequently, the Nuggets held a commanding 37-25 lead.
Despite solid offensive efforts from Davis and LeBron James, who combined for 29 points in the first half, the Lakers could not significantly reduce Denver’s lead. Instead, the Nuggets continued to push the tempo, with Murray and Michael Porter Jr. joining forces with Jokić to exploit the Lakers’ vulnerable defense. At halftime, the Nuggets held a commanding 72-54 lead, punctuated by a buzzer-beating pull-up jumper from Murray.
However, Jokić remained the center of attention, tallying an impressive stat line of 19 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks—all before halftime. His rebounding prowess alone surpassed the Lakers’ team total by three.
In the second quarter, Jokić found Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a rhythm jumper, securing a 90-70 lead for Denver and marking Jokić’s 10th assist. With 18 minutes remaining in the game, he achieved his sixth triple-double of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Nuggets’ supporting cast continued to excel.
Although the Lakers threatened with a run, cutting Denver’s lead to 11, Jokić responded with a contested 3-pointer over Davis at the end of the third quarter, denying the Lakers’ momentum.
Refusing to back down, the Lakers intensified their efforts in the fourth quarter, capitalizing on Jokić’s absence from the court and exploiting Denver’s second unit. LeBron James proved particularly effective in the post, while an Austin Reaves 3-pointer reduced Denver’s lead to 108-100, foreshadowing further challenges for the Nuggets. Reaves hit two more 3-pointers, each narrowing the gap to 3 points.
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