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3 things the Lakers can blame for losing Game 1 to the Nuggets

The Los Angeles Lakers dropped Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals to the Nuggets and what to blame for the loss is pretty clear in the 1-0 hole.

The Los Angeles Lakers came into Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals hoping to steal a game in Denver. Instead, the team really didn’t play well in the first half, falling into a big early hole. Though they clawed back, they ended up dropping the series opener to the Nuggets, 132-126.

Struggles for the Lakers started immediately in the first quarter and that set the tone for the early parts of the game. It’s a credit to Los Angeles that they were able to start mounting a comeback late in the third quarter and even had a chance to win this game late, but some lackluster possessions in the clutch sealed their fate, putting them in a 1-0 hole in the quest to return to the NBA Finals.

LeBron James had a chance to tie the game late but missed a 3-point attempt, one that was a questionable shot selection, especially early in the shot clock. However, that shot alone was not what should be blamed for the Lakers losing Game 1 to the Nuggets.

Lakers: 3 things to blame for Game 1 loss to the Nuggets

3. Lakers small lineup to start Game 1 proved costly

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham elected to start a three-guard lineup to begin Game 1 with D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves and Dennis Schroder on the floor together. That caused a problem from the jump as LA wasn’t able to rebound effectively on the defensive end, which helped the Nuggets build a stout early lead.

Going forward, Ham might need to go back to starting Jarred Vanderbilt to combat the Nuggets’ size, particularly with Nikola Jokic on the interior. Denver dominated the boards with the size mismatch and built a lead that allowed them to stave off the comeback attempt.

2. Poor offense in the first half helped dig a hole

Especially early on, the Nuggets forced the Lakers to settle for poor shots on Tuesday night. Los Angeles started the game 5-of-17 from the field, which was another key factor in falling into the early hole on the road. In fact, even with how close they got, you could make the argument that the early deficit was ultimately the difference in the game.

To begin the game, LA was content to settle for too many jump shots. And even in the heart of the late comeback attempt, the poor decision-making continued, including LeBron turning the ball over on consecutive possessions late. That has to change moving forward if the Lakers want to have a chance of advancing.

1. Anthony Davis’s defensive performance (particularly in the first half) 

Yes, Anthony Davis was guarding two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. Jokic is for sure going to get buckets  but the performance from Davisin this one was poor on the defensive end.

Davis is one of the best defenders in the league and couldn’t do anything against Jokic in Game 1. Jokic ended up with more rebounds than the entire Lakers team had in the first half of this game.

Some of that is on the Lakers’ small starting lineup having no answer, but part of the blame can be placed on the All-Defensive Team player in Davis, who had no answer. They need to find some sort of response in that regard, though, if they are to slow down Jokic at all and have a chance against the Nuggets.

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