NBA: Emphatic win for LeBron, Lakers to start West finals


Posted at Sep 19 2020 11:40 AM | Updated as of Sep 19 2020 10:32 PM

NBA: Emphatic win for LeBron, Lakers to start West finals 1
LeBron James had 15 points and 12 assists in the Lakers' convincing Game 1 victory. Mark J. Terrill, AP

Opening a playoff series with a win had eluded these Los Angeles Lakers entering their duel with the Denver Nuggets. 

Well rested and knowing what's at stake, Anthony Davis and the Lakers finally got off to the perfect start.

Davis tallied 37 points and 10 rebounds, and Los Angeles began the second quarter hot and stayed that way the rest of the night en route to a 126-114 victory over Denver on Friday (US time) in the Western Conference finals.

LeBron James added 15 points and 12 assists, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 18 points for Los Angeles, which won a Game 1 for the first time in these playoffs.

Game 2 is on Sunday.

"It took a quarter for us to kind of figure it out," James said. "I'm not saying we fully figured them out because it's too early in the series to say that.

"But we started to get a better feel, just started to get in a better rhythm defensively and we started to get some stops in that second quarter and we were able to build that lead up going into halftime."

Denver was ahead 38-36 to open the second quarter when Lakers reserve Alex Caruso converted a 3-point play to spark a 17-1 scoring run to give Los Angeles a 14-point lead. The Nuggets didn't score a field goal in the quarter until the 6:50 mark.

The bounce in the Lakers' step can be attributed to their weeklong layoff after they dispatched Houston in 5 games in the previous series.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets were just 2 days removed from finishing off the Los Angeles Clippers in the West semifinals, their second straight series that went the 7-game distance.

When the Lakers' lead ballooned to the mid-20s in the third quarter, Nuggets coach Mike Malone pulled his stars.

Nikola Jokic finished with 21 points, as did Jamal Murray, although both struggled with foul trouble.

Malone said the Nuggets did not do enough on defense.

"Even in that first quarter we didn't guard anybody," said Malone, whose team shot better than 63 percent from the field in an opening period punctuated by Murray's 3-pointer as time expired. 

"Our offense was able to score the ball but there was little defense."

Dwight Howard had 13 points, 2 steals and 2 blocks for the Lakers, who finished with 33 assists on 44 field goals.

Los Angeles, which also shot 44 of 83 from the floor (53%), lost to start its series against Portland in the first round and Houston in the conference semifinals before the Lakers went on to win 4 straight to close both out.