They were scared, especially when the Los Angeles Lakers came back to three small points three times in the last minutes, but the Denver Nuggets provided the essentials: winning (132-126) the first game, at home, in this Western Conference Finals to make sure they don’t suffer the same fate as Memphis and Golden State before them. In the previous two rounds, the Grizzlies and Warriors had been dominated in Game 1 on their own floor by the Lakers before being eliminated each time in six games.
Ever-Imperial Denver at the Ball Arena
Denver has therefore confirmed its invincibility at the Ball Arena in the play-offs (7 wins) and its status as the best team at home this season (41 wins-7 losses). Nikola Jokic has proven that if he was not the MVP of the season (title won by Joel Embiid for the first time), he was still probably the best player in the league.
The Serb had a mive triple-double on Tuesday night with 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 ists. He set the tone from the start with 12 rebounds in the first quarter, double the total of the entire Lakers team over the same period! He also had a spectacular three-pointer, at the buzzer of the third period, under the incredulous gaze of Anthony Davis. Late in the game, he grabbed a valuable rebound and made three of his four shots in the final minute to secure the victory for his team as Los Angeles put the pressure on.
Murray, Caldwell-Pope and Porter in support of Jokic
Because the Lakers, despite a delay which rose to 21 points (and still amounted to 14 units at the start of the fourth quarter), fought to the end, under the impetus of Anthony Davis ( 40 points and 10 rebounds despite starting the game in diesel mode), LeBron James at the gates of the triple double (26 points, 12 rebounds and 9 ists) and Austin Reaves, who scored 11 of his 23 points in the twelve final minutes of play. The 2020 champions came within three points of their opponents on three occasions in the final three minutes. They missed their next shot each time, leaving the Nuggets to regain some margin.
Behind Jokic, the Nuggets were able to count on Jamal Murray, in verve with 31 points (plus 5 ists and 5 rebounds), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (21 points) or even Michael Porter Jr, author of a double double (15 points , 10 rebounds). With Denver generally dominating over 48 minutes but the Los Angeles Lakers able to find solutions over the course of the meeting, Game 2, Thursday evening still in Colorado, promises to be explosive. And perhaps already decisive for the Lakers who will probably not be able to afford to be led 2-0 before returning to California.