Before the Lakers attempt to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their best of seven series with the Nuggets, we look back to see what went right and what went wrong in the team’s opening game 128-114 victory over Denver.
What Went Right:
• Luke Walton continued his improved play in recent weeks, coming through with a huge 16 point performance, igniting the team in the first with Vladimir Radmanovic in foul trouble.
• The Lakers proved why they’re one of the best passing teams in the league in Game 1, dishing out an impressive 33 assists on 46 field goal attempts. The Nuggets, on the other hand, only had 20 assists on the night on 43 shots from the field.
• Similar to the way the Lakers used to milk Shaq when he was hot during their three-peat run, the purple and gold found a way throughout the game to make sure that center Pau Gasol was involved on offense. While Gasol certainly deserves a lot of the credit for his monster 36 point Lakers playoff debut, his teammates did an exceptional job at finding him at opportune times and Gasol delivered big time.
• Only up by two points at halftime, the Lakers stymied almost all of Denver’s first half momentum during the first five minutes of the third quarter, creating a cushion that extended to the rest of the half.
• The Lakers’ poised offense won out over Denver’s run-and-gun attack, with the Lakers outscoring the Nuggets by 17 in the third quarter proving they can more than hold their own against the league’s second highest scoring offense.
• Both teams got to the free throw line, but the Lakers connected at a much higher percentage, making 27-32 from the charity stripe compared to only 23-37 for the Nuggets. Much of Denver’s misses came from the hands of Allen Iverson as he struggled at the line, missing six of 13 attempts.
• The more mature Lakers clearly rattled the less composed Nuggets in Game 1 as four Denver players—most notably Iverson—received technicals. Even when Anthony Carter blatantly shoved Kobe as he was falling out of bounds in the third quarter, Bryant kept his cool, refusing to fall into the Nugget’s trap.
What Went Wrong:
• Despite their best attempts, the Lakers still gave up 60 points combined to Anthony and Iverson, although they did hold the star duo to 11-26 and 11-24 shooting respectively
• Keliza burned the Lakers throughout the game, coming off Denver’s bench to bust out for 23 points on 9-13 from the field. While L.A. will certainly be better prepared to take on the versatile guard/forward in Game 2, they’ll also likely see more of him on the floor with Kleiza expected to start this time around.
• Fouls were an issue all night for the purple and gold, leading to 37 Nugget’s free throws. Luckily, Denver only connected in 23 of them otherwise it could have been an entirely different game altogether.
• While the Lakers lost the rebounding battle by only two 47-45, Denver did a much better job cleaning up their own glass, muscling 19 offensive rebounds, compared to only 13 for the Lakers. Anthony led Denver with 7 offensive boards.