NBA Game Preview - Denver at LA Lakers
Sun Sep 20, 2020 7:30 PM EDT

DEN
103
LAL
105
F
LeBron, Lakers out to make statement against Nuggets
Sun Sep 20, 2020 12:05 PM

The bigger story wasn't how the Los Angeles Lakers manhandled the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Friday near Orlando. The displeasure of LeBron James over the MVP voting and the distance between his second-place vote tally and that of winner Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks took center stage after the game.

"It pissed me off," said James, who had 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in the Lakers' 126-114 win over the Nuggets. "That's my true answer. It pissed me off because out of 101 votes, I got 16 first-place votes. That's what pissed me off more than anything."

The Nuggets had better hope James doesn't take his anger out on them when he and his Lakers resume their bid for a championship in Game 2 on Sunday. In the opener, Denver held James to 15 points, but Anthony Davis had 37 points and 10 rebounds as the Lakers used a second-quarter surge to take control and roll past the Nuggets.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 points for Los Angeles and Dwight Howard played a more significant role, scoring 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting with two blocks and two steals. Denver center Nikola Jokic also was harassed by Howard for much of the 16 minutes the veteran center played off the bench.

Jokic had 21 points and six rebounds but managed just two assists. Jokic, who was limited by foul trouble, averaged 24.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists in the Nuggets' seven-game series win over the Los Angeles Clippers in the West semifinals.

"He came in and played huge minutes for us and helped us get the win," Davis said of Howard.

Jamal Murray also scored 21 points for the Nuggets but he, too, experienced foul trouble in the first half. In the second half, he and the Nuggets were overwhelmed by the Lakers' third-quarter burst, outscored 33 to 20.

"Obviously, it's the first game, so we're not going to overreact. But we just have to be better," said Murray, who scored 15 of his points in the first half.

Denver coach Michael Malone wasn't pleased with the foul discrepancy in the first half. Los Angeles attempted 32 free throws, making 22, to 13 of 16 for Denver.

"I'll have to go back and watch the film but I know that they only shot 42 percent in that (second) quarter but they went to the foul line 24 times in one quarter, which is an extremely high number," Malone said. "We were called for 16 personal fouls in that quarter."

The Nuggets led 38-36 after one quarter as Jokic scored all 11 of his first-half points. However, a 17-1 run by the Lakers allowed them to take a double-digit lead. Los Angeles took a 70-59 edge at the break and increased the margin to as much as 27 in the second half.

"We knew the first quarter definitely wasn't Laker basketball, Laker defense," James said. "We had some breakdowns. It took a quarter for us to figure it out."

Los Angeles also got another lift off the bench from Rajon Rondo, who recorded nine assists to go along with seven points.

--Field Level Media

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