Setting The Tone
The Lakers have cruised through the playoffs so far, but if there was an Achilles' heel so far this postseason for Los Angeles, it had been Game 1s.
After losing Game 1 to the Portlant Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets, the Lakers made sure to set the tone from the start in the Western Conference Finals, taking Game 1 over the Denver Nuggets 126-114.
Here are 3 takeaways from this Western Conference Finals matchup.
1. Battle of the bigs
Coming into Game 1, both Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis had been dominant for their teams during this postseason.
Jokic entered the game averaging 25.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and six assists while Davis was averaging 27.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
For Game 1, Davis dominated the matchup.
Davis scored 37 points and snagged 10 rebounds while helping to hold Jokic to 21 points and six rebounds and getting the Nuggets All-Star big man in foul trouble.
This was Davis' fourth game this postseason of scoring at least 30 points; the Lakers are 4-0 in those games.
This also marked the fifth consecutive game where Davis has outscored Jokic, outscoring him in all four regular season matchups and now in the first game of this series.
2. Dwight Howard's impact
Against the Houston Rockets, Dwight Howard only played 16 total minutes in the series, with the Lakers electing to go with small ball.
He matched that total in one night of work against the Nuggets.
In 16 minutes, Howard totaled 13 points, three rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
His play was most important in the second quarter where he shot eight free throws, part of the Lakers shooting 25 in that quarter alone.
The Lakers size has been a strength of theirs throughout this season, and against an All-Star big man the caliber of Jokic, they will need to get all that they can from their dominant front court.
The Lakers are now 3-0 this postseason when Howard scores in double figures.
3. Nuggets' "others" go missing
The Nuggets' 3-1 comeback against the Los Angeles Clippers was a total team effort.
Though Jokic and Jamal Murray garnered most of the headlines, the team as a whole saw at least four players score in double figures in each of the final three games of the series.
Against the Lakers, the wealth was not as evenly distributed.
Only three players scored in double figures for the Nuggets in Game 1, with Jokic and Murray scoring 21, while most of reserve Michael Porter Jr.'s 14 points coming with the game already being decided with the Lakers building a 27-point lead.
With LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the Lakers, the Nuggets will need more than just their top two scorers to show up in this series in order to have a chance at springing another upset.