Denver survives Lakers’ rally to take Game 1 of the Western Conference finals

Nikola Jokic is still unstoppable in the ongoing NBA Playoffs (

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Denver Nuggets weathered the storm and avoided a huge meltdown against the Los Angeles Lakers to take care of home court business, 132-126, in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs’ Western Conference finals last May 17, 2023.

After extending its lead to as much as 21 points in the game, the Nuggets saw themselves in deep trouble after the Lakers cut it to just three, 124-121, with still 3:21 remaining in the epic Game 1 showdown.

However, the Nuggets maintained their poise under pressure and were able to outwork the Lakers in the last two minutes of the dogfight.

Perhaps the biggest momentum-clinching play in the final stretch for the Nuggets was their magic on both ends of the floor in the last 2:36.

As Rui Hachimura and Michael Porter Jr. were fighting for the ball possession, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came in the right time and snatched the ball away which resulted into an electrifying alley-oop dunk from a Jamal Murray-Aaron Gordon connection.

That crucial basket from Gordon halted the bleeding for the Nuggets and ballooned its cushion back to six points, 127-121, that kept the whole crowd on its feet.

Despite Austin Reaves’ big three that cut Denver’s lead again to three points, 127-124, Caldwell-Pope answered back with a clutch layup against the outstretched arms of Anthony Davis who attempted to block the shot.

With the game on the line and the Lakers desperately needing a basket to get close, Nikola Jokic stepped in big time and provided the biggest stop of the game when he stole the ball away from LeBron James who was already in the paint surveying his options.

Jokic then iced the game with a crucial free throw that helped them maintain their six-point lead and capped off his stellar Game 1 performance with 34 points, 21 rebounds, 14 assists, and two blocks.

It was all Denver in the first three quarters as their high-octane offense that proved to be too much for the Phoenix Suns helped them generate easy baskets during transition plays.

Los Angeles kept on punching back when Hachimura entered the ball game but soon as the Denver starters re-entered, the complexion of the game changes again in favor of the Nuggets.

Backstopping Jokic in the cardiac Game 1 was Murray who put up 31 points built from an efficient 12/20 shooting from the field.

One of the biggest stories in Denver’s Game 1 win was also their balanced attack led by Caldwell-Pope who tallied 21 points followed by Bruce Brown’s 16, Porter Jr.’s 15, and Gordon’s 12 markers.

Meanwhile, despite the loss, Davis still provided monster numbers for the Lakers, scoring 40 points on 14/23 shooting alongside 10 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks.

James was also terrific on the road after chipping in 26 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists, but failed to cash in the trey with 9 seconds left that would’ve cut Denver’s lead to three points again.

Los Angeles will look to equalize things in Game 2 on May 19, 2023, and will seek to head back home not carrying a 0-2 series disadvantage.