Sluggish 3rd Quarter Sinks Lakers in Game 1 Loss

Sluggish 3rd Quarter Sinks Lakers in Game 1 Loss

After a competitive first half in which both teams had runs that showed what they were capable of, it was the Nuggets big 3rd quarter that broke the game open and sunk the Lakers in a 114 to 103 loss in Game 1 Saturday night. The game is the team's 9th straight defeat to Denver and drops them to 0-1 in in the series.

The Lakers did many things right in this game, but playing against an opponent that will not beat themselves and seems to pounce on every sliver of an opening offered from your mistakes, the Lakers did not play a clean enough game to come out victorious in this one. The Lakers surrendered 15 offensive rebounds and committed 12 turnovers (including seven from LeBron James) to just four from the Nuggets.

These numbers, along with the Lakers shooting more free throws than Denver, led to the Nuggets attempting 23 more field goals on the evening, a staggering difference that, despite the Nuggets' offense not being in top form, gave them too many bites at the apple to gain an edge.

And that's exactly what the Nuggets did, turning those offensive rebounds into 18 second chance points and those 12 turnovers into 14 points. In a game the Lakers hung tight and had chances to climb back into the game in the 2nd half, it was these possession gaining wins and the points that came from then that were a major difference.

On the positive front, the Lakers got a standout performance from Anthony Davis. Battling Nikola Jokic bucket for bucket and having some strong defensive possessions against the Serbian big man as well, Davis scored 32 points, grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, dished out five assists, and blocked four shots on the evening.

AD hit 12 of his 23 shot attempts from the field, mixing in mid-range jumpers with powerful post ups while also working in some quick drives to finish in and around the paint. Davis was wonderful and his bucket getting was instrumental in giving the Lakers a lifeline offensively in the half court as team struggled to find a rhythm shooting from the outside.

Joining AD with a strong scoring night was LeBron who poured in 27 points on 10 of 16 shooting to go along with eight assists (countered by the aforementioned seven turnovers). LeBron came out of the gates firing away, hitting all three of his triples in the first half -- including a buzzer beater heading into intermission that gave the Lakers a three-point lead.

LeBron was great in pointedly attacking his matchups, especially ratcheting up his drives and assaults on the paint when Aaron Gordon had to depart the game with early foul trouble. With Gordon out and Jokic concerned with staying attached to AD, LeBron was able to find some lanes to the rim in both the halfcourt and in transition to score and get the team going.

Despite LeBron and AD going well, the Nuggets were able to withstand the Lakers early push and then methodically get back into the game due to the strong games from their own stars.

Both Jokic and Jamal Murray had excellent games and in doing so helped get their teammates going as well. Jokic was masterful in scoring in and around the paint, pouring in 32 points while grabbing 12 rebounds (three offensive) and dishing seven assists. Murray, meanwhile, scored 22 points and dished out 10 assists. And while Murray did not shoot the ball well overall (nine of 24 overall), he did connect on four of his nine attempts from behind the arc, which contributed to Denver connecting on seven more threes overall.

And while the Nuggets shot just 35.7% from behind the arc overall, their superior shot making was one of the big differences in the outcome of this game. The Lakers connected on just eight of their 29 attempts from deep, with D'Angelo Russell (one of nine) and Austin Reaves (two of six) never really finding their groove from deep. Russell was also challenged inside the arc, hitting five of 11 two-pointers, leading to a six of 20 shooting overall.

Ultimately, then, the Lakers can see some of the clear ways they can try to clean up their performance and see the areas in which they can improve both from a team perspective and when the individual players look in the mirror. And they will try to bring that improved performance when the series resumes with Game 2 on Monday.