FSM Essential Recap: Lakers vs Nuggets – Game 1 – 2023

Franchise Sports Media

Los Angeles Lakers (43-39) | Denver Nuggets (53-29)


The Los Angeles Lakers fell short of a comeback, as the Denver Nuggets snagged Game 1 with their 132-126 victory, taking a 1-0 series lead.

The Lakers vs Nuggets played at the Ball Arena on Tuesday.

Lakers vs Nuggets Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis
Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have fallen to 0-1 for the first time in these playoffs. The Lakers hit first against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors, but the Denver Nuggets drew first blood, playing with significantly greater energy.

Anthony Davis did all he could, totaling 40 points (14-of-23 FGs, 11-of-11 FTs), ten rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks. Davis started the game 2-for-8 from the field but was able to finish out the contest a staggering 12-for-15 overall.

LeBron James finished with 26 points (9-of-16 FGs, 0-for-4 3s, 8-of-11 FTs), 12 rebounds, and nine assists. Austin Reaves stepped up with 23 points (7-of-14 FGs, 5-for-9 3s) and eight assists.

First half was really ugly, to say the least,” Reaves said. “But we got it going in the second half, and really just playing hard was the common denominator for everything.”

Nikola Jokic recorded his sixth triple-double this postseason with 34 points (12-of-17 FGs, 3-for-3 3s, 7-of-8 FTs), 21 rebounds, 14 assists, and two blocks.

He’s really good, obviously,” Reaves said of Jokic. “He won an MVP two years in a row. He just makes everybody on his team better. Hats off to him, but this is a series, and we’re gonna battle.”

Nikola Jokic went off

Jokic became the first player with ten rebounds, five assists, and two blocks in any quarter over the last 25 years.

The start of the Lakers vs Nuggets’ first half. 

Lakers vs Nuggets Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis
Photo Credit: Jack Dempsey/AP

Jokic has grown as a player since the Lakers limited him to 21.8 points (53 percent FGs), 7.2 boards, and 5.0 assists per game in their 4-1 Western Conference Finals win in 2020.

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham adjusted, switching Rui Hachimura onto Jokic, which swung some momentum toward Los Angeles.

Through the first three quarters, Jokic totaled 31 points (12-of-15 FGs), 19 boards, 12 assists, and three turnovers. However, the fourth quarter was a different story. Jokic had three points (0-for-2 FGs), two boards, two assists, and two turnovers.

James also pointed out that Jokic had six offensive rebounds in the first quarter and finished with six for the game, so he was pleased with how the Lakers responded after the first quarter.

It was a part of our game plan,” Hachimura said of the adjustment. “We talked about it before the game. The coaches told me I was gonna guard Jokic. I think it was a pretty good plan, and in the second half, we did a good job on him.”

With the attention demanded by James and Davis, Denver didn’t have another big body to match up with Hachimura, who scored over various defenders. Hachimura ended up with 17 points (8-of-11 FGs).

I feel like this series is different than the last series when we were playing Golden State,” Hachimura said. “This series, the point guard is 6’6, and everybody is 6’8, 6’10. I think the big lineup is gonna be good for us.”

This will be a tough matchup for the Lakers to play three guards, at least against the Nuggets’ starters. Michael Porter Jr. (15 points, ten rebounds, two blocks) may not be the most physical player, but he’s 6-foot-10 and crashes well. Los Angeles will need more size out there throughout the rest of the series

The end of the Lakers vs Nuggets’ first half. 

The Ball Arena crowd was arguably the loudest of the three arenas that the Lakers have played in this postseason (FedExForum and Chase Center being the other two).

The start of the Lakers vs Nuggets’ second half. 

Lakers vs Nuggets LeBron James
Photo Credit: Jack Dempsey/AP

Denver opened up 8-for-15 from the field and nabbed offensive rebounds on six of their misses, scoring nearly every trip down the floor, keeping Los Angeles out of transition.

Considering the Lakers were out-rebounded 20-3, a 13-point deficit at 34-21 wasn’t nearly as large as it could’ve been.

The first quarter of this one was incredibly tough for Los Angeles. James was able to give them a late boost. However, Jokic thoroughly outplayed Davis at this point.

Even the non-Jokic minutes went very poorly for the Lakers, who gave up a 7-0 run to see the deficit go from 10 to 17. The Lakers’ top-rated defense could not slow down Denver’s top-rated offense.

Reaves’ 3 off a kick-out pass from Hachimura had the Lakers within single digits, 109-100, with 10:09 left. This was the closest they’d been since the first quarter. James had a chance to tie the game with a three over Jamal Murray but couldn’t get it to go. 

My first inclination is that it’s not even a size factor; it’s a mobility factor,” Ham said of the struggles on the glass to start with the small lineup. “We had multiple guys just standing around.”

The final score of the Lakers vs Nuggets was 132-126, Nuggets.

The Lakers will take on the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, May 18, at 5:30 pm PST.


– Jake Ideguchi-Furukawa – Franchise Sports Media

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