The Lakers were bullied on the glass for most of the night and were out-rebounded by the Nuggets 47-30 in the Western Conference Finals opener. Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic put on a show for the home crowd in Denver, notching 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham didn’t feel the lopsided rebound number was due to size but instead a lack of toughness and tenaciousness from his squad.
“My first inclination is not even a size factor, it’s a mobility factor,” Ham said. “We had multiple guys just standing around, no one is seeking out a hit. One person getting a hit, one person is selling out going after the basketball. A couple of times the ball just dropped to the ground and someone swooped in from their team and grabbed it.
“Too many possessions where we had bodies in the vicinity of the rebound but just never put a body on their body. We didn’t make a deliberate attempt to grab the ball.”
Anthony Davis and LeBron James accounted for the majority of rebounds from the Lakers. James grabbed 12, while Davis had 10. No other Lakers player had more than three boards.
“A lot, a lot of long rebounds. We gave them way too many second-chance points on offensive rebound opportunities, and 50-50 balls for that matter,” Ham said. “We have to be better in transition and we can’t foul them. We have to be more disciplined showing our hands when we’re guarding those guys around the rim and in the post.”
Austin Reaves: Lakers Need More Pride on Defense
With Jokic (34 points) and Jamal Murray (31) leading the way, the Nuggets had their highest scoring output of the postseason against the Lakers defense in Game 1. Denver also shot 46.9% from deep and 54.9% from the field. LA found its scoring rhythm during the comeback effort but Lakers guard Austin Reaves knows the focus has to be on the defensive end.
“I didn’t think we changed much other than really energy,” Reaves said after the game. “Scoring wasn’t the issue for either team. We’ve just got to take a little more pride in the defensive end and figure it out.”
When the Lakers are clicking, it starts on the defensive end. After getting blown out by the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of their previous series, James stated he feels the Lakers have the best defense in the league.
“We still are. That doesn’t change,” James said at the time. “We’re still the best defensive team in the league, if not one of them. So that doesn’t change. That’s what we hang our hats on.”
That will continue to be tested against the Nuggets.
Darvin Ham Confident Lakers Will be Okay After Game 1
The Lakers didn’t come out on the winning side and now trail 1-0. However, they were able to take away some positives from the game thanks to their comeback effort. Ham is confident the Lakers can turn things around.
“We woke up and started digging in, playing with more urgency. There’s no doubt in my mind when we come out in Game 2, we’ll be ready,” Ham said. “Thank God it’s a best of 7 and it’s not the NCAA Tournament. It’s the first to four. We’ll be okay. Trust me.”
The Nuggets were the favorite heading into the series and are now -280 to advance to the NBA Finals, per FanDuel. The Lakers are +240.