Nikola Jokic recorded his sixth triple-double of these playoffs with 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists, powering the Denver Nuggets to a 132-126 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the opener of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night.
Behind Jokic‘s sizzling start and strong finish, and Jamal Murray‘s 31 points, Denver beat the Lakers in the opener of a playoff series for the first time ever.
The start of an instant classic series?
After a slow start, Anthony Davis had 40 points and 10 rebounds, and LeBron James finished with 26 points, 12 boards and nine assists. Austin Reaves chipped in 23 points and fueled L.A.‘s desperate fourth-quarter run that nearly erased Denver‘s 14-point cushion after three.
The Nuggets led by as many as 21 but the Lakers pulled within three points twice in the fourth quarter, once on Reaves‘ 3-pointer at 124-121 and again on James‘ pair of free throws that made it 129-126 with 1:12 remaining.
Nuggets hold on
After Jokic sank two free throws with 26 seconds left to give Denver a 131-126 lead, Murray poked the ball from James as he was about to take it to the hoop and Jokic gathered the loose ball before being fouled with 10.9 seconds left. He sank one of two and James misfired from 3 as the seconds ticked off.
Game 2 is Thursday night at Ball Arena, where the top-seeded Nuggets are 7-0 in the playoffs and 41-7 overall, the best home record in the league this season.