Nuggets defeat Lakers to go up 1-0 in first-round series

Matt Brooks
Writer & Digital Content Specialist

That's how you start a playoff run.

The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 114-103, on Saturday night in Game 1 of the first-round series. Denver has now defeated Los Angeles nine consecutive times dating back to the 2022-23 regular season.

"This was a team win. I know we have a great player in Nikola (Jokić), but we needed everybody to get this win, and they all stepped up," said head coach Michael Malone.

Speaking of Jokić, he led the way with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists on 15-of-23 shooting. He had four dunks in the game and looked explosive.

"I think we know how to play together. I think it's not just one player. I think everybody knows what to do," said Jokić after the win. "The roles are really well set and we are doing our roles as best as we can."

Michael Porter Jr. also had an excellent showing with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting and 8 rebounds. He had multiple nifty finishes inside the three-point line, including a floater over the top of LeBron James.

"I just felt as the game went along, he got himself further and further into the game," said Malone.

Speaking of James, he had 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists in the game. Anthony Davis paced Los Angeles with 32 points and 14 rebounds.

The Nuggets didn't have their best night shooting the ball and made 35.7 percent of their three-pointers, well below the 37.4 percent they shot in the regular season. However, this game was decided on the glass. Denver outrebounded Los Angeles, 49-40, and grabbed 15 offensive boards. Aaron Gordon accounted for 6 of those offensive rebounds and finished with 11 overall. Denver also recorded 27 assists to just 4 total turnovers.

Los Angeles had an excellent start. James was unbelievable and scored 70 percent of his team's points in the first quarter. That helped the Lakers build a 12-point lead, forcing a timeout from Malone.

Denver got it together in the second quarter and hit the offensive glass relentlessly, grabbing 5 offensive rebounds to the Lakers' 7 defensive boards. In a half where they shot just 26 percent from three-point range, the Nuggets eventually found themselves down just 60-57 at the break.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came alive in the second half. He hit four three-pointers in the third quarter to help the Nuggets put the ritz on the Lakers. Denver's defense held up on the other end as Los Angeles scored just 18 third-quarter points. When Denver's lead grew to as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles got it down to 7 points, but then Jokić put the game away with two big buckets, including an incredible dunk over the top of James.