Nuggets draw first blood in WCF opener, survive from Lakers’ furious 2nd-half rally


Photo: Denver Nuggets/Twitter

The Denver Nuggets withstood the scary second-half rally of the Los Angeles Lakers to take Game 1 of the 2023 Western Conference Finals, 132-126.

Denver led by as much as 21 in the third quarter, but the Lakers turned the tables around and were on target from distance, cutting the deficit by three in the fourth frame. As such, the Nuggets held on and were able to finish the match with the momentum at their side successfully.

Nikola Jokic had another masterpiece, feasting with 31 points (12-of-17 field goals), 21 boards and 16 assists – becoming the first player in league’s postseason history to drop a 30-point triple-double and 70 percent shooting in consecutive games, per ESPN Stats & Info. Tallying his sixth triple-double of the 2023 Playoffs, he also tied both Magic Johnson (1982) and Draymond Green (2019) for the second most triple-doubles in a single postseason.

Jamal Murray had 31 points, five boards and five assists. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was huge with his 21 points, three assists and two steals.

At the side of the Lakers, Anthony Davis was monstrous on both ends of the floor, churning a game-high 40 points to go with 10 boards, three assists, three steals and two blocks. LeBron James got 26 points, 12 boards and nine assists, with Austin Reaves adding up 23 markers and eight dimes.

Denver ended the half with a 72-54 deficit in courtesy of Jokic’s early 19 points, 16 boards and seven assists. 

The Lakers went down by as much as 21 points in the third frame, but managed to cut it to 11 via a 10-2 run down the stretch. Jokic went on to respond and sink a buzzer- beating trey to end the quarter at 106-92.

Both teams continued to trade buckets in the final frame until the Lakers blazed for a 9-0 run to cut the Nuggets’ lead to three behind Austin Reaves’ 11 fourth-period points. Jokic’s zero field goal shots in the quarter also played a part in the Nuggets’ sudden passiveness on crunch time.

Down by five, 131-126, with 26.1 seconds left, LeBron James committed a costly turnover that allowed the Nuggets to elevate their lead to six via a foul shot from Jokic. 

James took a desperation three and missed it, as the buzzer sounded a 132-126 first blood win for the Nuggets.

The Nuggets and the Lakers will meet again for Game 2 on Thursday.

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