Video Credit: NBA

FSM Essential Recap: Lakers vs Nuggets – Game 1 – 9/18/2020

(#1) Los Angeles Lakers (9-2)  |  (#3) Denver Nuggets (8-7)


The Lakers came out aggressive to start off the Western Conference Finals on the right foot with a big-time victory.


Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With five days of rest, LeBron James and company came ready to play. He made sure to run the floor on offense and take charge on defense, and it showed as the Lakers dominated with the 126-114 win. James finished the first half with 15 points on 6-9 (66%) shooting, not even a slightly rolled left ankle could slow him down.

Anthony Davis followed James’ lead, going for 17 points on 4-8 (50%) shooting. Heading into this series, Davis knew his play was vital to the team’s success due to Denver’s lack of big men. Along with Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard would need to play at a high level to win and advance.

In the previous series against the Houston Rockets, McGee was taken out of the starting lineup in exchange for Markieff Morris. The Lakers adjusted matchup better with Houston and their small-ball gameplan. As a result, McGee and Howard barely played at all in the five-game series.

Obviously, things will be different in this series as Denver plays a bit more traditional, but Jokic being the problem he is at the center position meant that this is the series for the Laker big men to step up. McGee did just that in the opening minute of the game. On the Nuggets‘ opening possession, he opened up the game with a block. On the ensuing drive, there was a deflection, and he dove on the floor, setting the tone for the defensive intensity they would play with for the rest of the game.

But perhaps, the biggest story of the first half for the Lakers was Howard. The big man made his presence known as soon as he entered the game, on both sides of the floor. He may have gone into the half with five points and two rebounds, but he also recorded two blocks.


The numbers may not be huge, but his intensity and attitude in the game is what does not show up in the stat sheet. It makes a huge difference.



Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: USA Today

Howard being the big antagonist he is, caused problems for Nikola Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets. Denver grew frustrated on offense, and it showed with Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Paul Millsap all committing three fouls by the half. Murray even received a technical foul in the middle of a Lakers run that built their lead to double digits.

At the half, the Lakers were up 70-59. Now usually, a double-digit lead going into the half is a solid, safe lead. However, the Nuggets have proved that being up by even 20 points is not safe for opposing teams when it comes to them. In their previous series against the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver came back from huge deficits in three consecutive games to come back from 3-1 to win the series in seven games and advance.

Well, that was not the case in this one as the Lakers continued to put a beating on the Nuggets. James and Davis remained dominant and aggressive in leading the way for the Lake Show. But it was the play of Rajon Rondo that kept the momentum rolling for Los Angeles.

Rondo only finished with seven points and one rebound but dished out an impressive nine assists. As a matter of fact, he surpassed Michael Jordan for 10th all-time on the career postseason assists list. His defensive intensity led a spark that would hold the course the rest of the game. His return as “Playoff Rondo,” the veteran and championship-winning point guard, is proving one of the driving forces that was missing since they arrived in the bubble.


Davis finished the game with a whopping double-double of 37 points and 10 rebounds. After the game, he said that he was glad they were finally able to win a Game 1, but they are not satisfied yet and still need to win three more games.



Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill/AP

James also recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 assists. In an unusual turn of events, James was talking trash back at Jamal Murray, who is known to be a cocky trash talker. It occurred after James finished an and-one play on Murray. The Denver guard hit the floor, and James stood above him, just nodding his head, smiling, and saying, “And-one!”

Howard ended up finishing in double figures with 13 points in 16 minutes. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 18 points, and Kyle Kuzma scored 11 points.

Murray and Jokic each scored 21 points in a surprisingly low amount of minutes. They played 29 and 25 minutes, respectively, most likely due to being down over 20 points. Michael Porter Jr. also contributed with a double-double of 14 points and ten rebounds.

The Lakers will now carry this momentum into Game 2 while Denver will try and figure out which adjustments, if any, they can make.


Game 2 will be on Sunday, Sep. 20, at 4:30pm. You can watch the game on TNT and Spectrum SportsNet.


Western Conference Finals schedule (All times PT)

  • Game 1Lakers 126 – Nuggets 114
  • Game 2—Sunday, September 20, 4:30 p.m.—TNT
  • Game 3—Tuesday, September 22, 6 p.m.—TNT
  • Game 4—Thursday, September 24, 6 p.m.—TNT
  • Game 5*—Saturday, September 26, 6 p.m.—TNT
  • Game 6*—Monday, September 28, TBD—TNT
  • Game 7*—Wednesday, September 30, TBD—TNT

*If required

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Isaiah Torres

Twitter: Isaiah_Torres24

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