Although they were slow to start in their Western Conference Finals reunion with the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Lakers made key runs in the second half to secure a 114-93 victory. Seven Lakers players scored in the double digits in the contest.
“We all try to do our part,” said Lakers star LeBron James. “We try to work together and when we do that, we’re very, very good.”
Lakers star LeBron James made a triple-double: 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Denver guard Jamal Murray led his squad with 20 points, forward Paul Millsap and center Nikola Jokic had 10 rebounds each.
Guard Talen Horton-Tucker matched his career high of 17 points in the bout. He considers the opportunity to get playing time as a blessing after getting minimal opportunities to play last season.
“I feel like my confidence comes from myself,” Horton-Tucker said. “Being able to have the confidence within myself and having my teammates and coaches have confidence in me is also a plus.”
Despite trailing early, the Lakers made stops against the Nuggets. Murray hit an array of shots, the Lakers backcourt would best their defense. Guard Talen Horton-Tucker sank a three-point shot to tie the game at 21. The teams would tie three more times before the end of the first quarter.
Despite the Lakers efforts, Denver found ways to stay one step ahead. While the Lakers struggled with their three-point shooting, Denver scored with accuracy. Nikola Jokic was a problem for the Lakers on both sides of the floor, Harrell and Kuzma were effective at defending.
Denver also took several trips to the free-throw line during the second quarter, helping them expand into a 12-point lead. Lakers players made turnovers and fouls. With 1:36 left in the half Davis earned his third foul.
Throughout their scoring slump, forward Kyle Kuzma made steals while guard Dennis Schröder dove for loose balls.
“Anytime a player dives on the floor for a loose ball in front of his coach, that’s gonna excite the coach,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “We definitely look for that kind of hustle.”
Although the Lakers put forth a strong defensive effort of five steals and four blocks, the Nuggets went into halftime ahead 58-46. Denver was 11-12 in free throws at this point and forward JaMychal Green was leading with 12 points.
“Coach (Vogel) got on us at halftime about our energy and our pace,” said Lakers forward Anthony Davis. “Guys talked in the locker room and we were able to come out in that third quarter, holding them to 17 points.”
After intermission found their groove by sharing the ball. Schröder and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope relied more on mid-range shots and James pushed the tempo. Center Marc Gasol made his fourth foul, highlighting the foul trouble the Lakers endured during the third quarter.
With defense being ever-present for the Lakers throughout the contest, they made defensive stops to create an 11-point run in the final minutes of the third.
Horton-Tucker scored two quick baskets to start the final phase. Monte Morris rallied offensively for the Nuggets as the Lakers made points in the paint. The Lakers began to frustrate the Nuggets as they continued to score.
“Offensively, we didn’t move the ball enough,” said guard Jamal Murray. “They just ran us. They just ran layups, layup, dunk, dunk and we wasn’t scoring on the other end.”
On Saturday, the Lakers will host the Detroit Pistons at 7:00P.M.