It was all too easy for the Lakers.
Too easy for them to get out in transition, or even run on made baskets and beat Denver down the court.
Too easy for Anthony Davis to rack up 37 points.
Too easy for an attacking Lakers team to get key Nuggets players — including Nikola Jokic — in foul trouble.
Too easy for the Lakers’ defense to bottle up the Nuggets guards in the pick-and-roll, never letting Denver’s offense get on track after the first quarter.
And the “too easy” list goes on and on. It resulted in a 126-114 Lakers’ win where the Lakers led by 27 at one point and never felt truly threatened in the second half. The Lakers now lead the Western Conference Finals 1-0 with Game 2 on Sunday.
“Even in that first quarter, we didn’t guard anybody… Nuggets’ coach Mike Malone said, trying to target his team’s troubles in Game 1. “There was little defense.”
Add to that this Laker offense is relentless and will punish mismatches and mistakes in a way that other Staples Center team rarely did. Denver lear
After an even first quarter, what changed was that the Lakers started locking down on defense — the Nuggets had seven second-quarter turnovers, which led to the Lakers getting out in transition on plays like this.
CARUSO TO LEBRON 💥 pic.twitter.com/W8wHUKpdRD
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) September 19, 2020
But the Lakers were running on everything, including made shots, and beating Denver down the court for buckets.
Denver scored 41 points over the second and third quarters combined, with an 88 offensive rating. Part of the frustration from the Nuggets was the foul calls, which they thought bent toward the Lakers, but also Los Angels was the more aggressive team. The Lakers simply outhustled the Nuggets down the court time after time.
L.A. went on a 19-3 run from the end of the first half to early in the second, never looking back from there. Los Angeles was led by the 37 from Davis, while LeBron James had 15 points and 12 assists. As a team, the Lakers were 11-of-26 from three (42.3%).
Denver had 21 points each from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, and both played far fewer minutes than normal due to foul trouble. Michael Porter Jr. had 14, and the game was such a blowout that by the end Bol Bol was in and had a bucket.
Denver needs to consider this a game spent to learn more about their opponent and how they will have to play the rest of the series. Not exactly a game to flush completely, but it’s pretty close.
The Lakers need to remember that Denver has come back twice in playoff series already, the Nuggets learn from their mistakes and improve. Things are not always going to be this easy.
But the Lakers could not have asked for a better start.