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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Apr 21, 2024 9:21 pm

Lakers will try again to slow Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic in Game 2

Nikola Jokic

The Los Angeles Lakers got a fast start from LeBron James, a double-double from Anthony Davis and held Denver to just six free-throw attempts in Game 1 on Saturday.

Yet they still lost by double digits to the reigning NBA champions.

After surviving the James-Davis duo for the 114-103 victory to open the Western Conference first-round series, the Nuggets will try to preserve their home-court edge in Game 2 on Monday night.

Denver has beaten Los Angeles nine straight times, dating back to the final regular-season game between them in 2022-23. On Saturday, Los Angeles didn’t have an answer for Nikola Jokic, who finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, despite throwing multiple looks at him.

Rui Hachimura started out defending him, Davis and James also spent time guarding him and the Lakers tried doubling him, but nothing worked. Jokic had no turnovers and two steals in his 39 minutes and was 15-for-23 from the field.

Los Angeles coach Darvin Ham said after the loss there were adjustments he didn’t use Saturday night that he will try in the rest of the series.

“We didn’t want to go too deep into the in-game adjustments. It’s still that ultimate chess game,” he said. “So we were comfortable with the results. … If we need to go back to it, it’s there.”

The Lakers could use more from their bench, which was outscored 17-11 in Game 1, with all of Los Angeles’ points coming from Taurean Prince. Getting Christian Wood back from a knee injury would help, especially patrolling the paint, but he isn’t expected to return until the series shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Thursday night.

The Nuggets don’t need to fix much other than getting off to a faster start and hitting more shots. Among the starters, only Michael Porter Jr. (8 of 15) and Jokic hit more than 50 percent of their shots, with Jamal Murray going 9-for-24 from the field, but he still managed to put up 22 points and 10 assists.

“Not just me — I think we’ll all shoot better next game,” Murray said.

One thing Denver did well Saturday night — and in five straight playoff games against Los Angeles — is contain the Lakers’ role players. James and Davis combined for 59 points, 20 rebounds and 13 assists in Game 1, but the rest of the team had little impact.

D’Angelo Russell again struggled against the Nuggets’ defense, shooting 1-for-9 from 3-point range and 6-for-20 overall in scoring 13 points. It was a continuation of last year’s postseason, when Denver swept Los Angeles in the Western Conference finals. Russell was 2-for-15 from long range in the four games and was benched later in Game 4.

The Nuggets can expect a bounce-back game from the Lakers, and a more aggressive James. After scoring 19 points in the first half on Saturday, he had just eight in the second half and didn’t attempt a shot in the fourth quarter until the final 1:20.

Still, Denver is impressed at what James is doing in his 21st NBA season.

“I’m 21 years old. He’s been playing for as long as I’ve been alive,” Nuggets forward Peyton Watson said. “I definitely tried to talk to him a little bit, get a feel for him.”

–Field Level Media

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