Lakers Fall to Nuggets in Game 1

Jack Dempsey/AP

The Los Angeles Lakers were defeated by the Denver Nuggets 114-103 Saturday night in what is now their fourth straight loss to the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic this season.

The Lakers entered the matchup as heavy underdogs in Denver’s home court, and though they went to the locker room up three at halftime, they ultimately could not pull off the upset.

LA has been vocal about their goal of winning one of the first two matchups on the road in this series, and though they did not get the job done last night, they will look to try again on Monday night.

Here are two key takeaways from Saturday night’s loss ahead of Game 2.

48 Minute Basketball

The Lakers kicked off Game 1 with a bang, establishing an eight-point lead by the end of the first quarter and even stretching it to 12 in the first half.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis spearheaded the offensive charge, contributing 19 and 18 points, respectively, and leading the Purple and Gold to an impressive 55.8% shooting from the field.

The LakeShow also held their ground defensively, limiting Denver to 43.4% and a mere 6/23 from beyond the arc. 

With a slim three-point lead, the Lakers needed to maintain their momentum at the start of the second half to stay competitive against the defending champions.

However, they found themselves trailing 73-76 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. LeBron James was fouled on an and-one layup, offering a chance to tie the game.

His missed free throw marked the beginning of a three-minute scoring drought, during which the Nuggets scored 13 unanswered points. 

In this three-minute period, the Lakers missed six straight shots and recorded two turnovers, both of which were by LeBron James, who notched an ugly six turnovers on the day.

Losing the game by only eleven, outside of these three minutes of basketball, the Lakers won the game by two points. Games like these are a testament to how good of a team the Nuggets are. 45 minutes of “good basketball” isn’t enough to beat a team like this.

The Lakers can’t surrender big runs like the one they did last night. Head Coach Darvin Ham will need to stress the importance of doing what it takes to stay in the game and not lose it so easily. 

D'Lo Struggles

D’Angelo Russell’s inefficiency beyond the arc was a topic of discussion after the Lakers’ Western Conference Finals loss last season to Denver, prompting him to focus on making sure his shot was dialed for this year’s postseason.

Russell’s three-point shooting has improved tremendously this season, shooting 41.5% on 7.2 attempts per game. Russell’s big play ability has carried LA to several wins, including a big 44-point performance against Milwaukee in March.

Unfortunately, D'Angelo Russell’s playoff struggles persisted in Game 1, as he struggled from beyond the arc, shooting an abysmal 1/9, and finished with a 6/20 shooting from the field.

It's clear that Russell's issues are primarily mental, a challenge that can be overcome with a boost in confidence in the next game.

Keep an eye out for Russell to bounce back and make a significant impact in Game 2. 

Though the Lakers didn’t win Game 1, they have another opportunity to make this a series on Monday night. Expect more star-studded matchups between the King and the Joker in what we hope will be a highly contested series.

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