Over the final three quarters, the Denver Nuggets got thoroughly outplayed by the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
It all began with the first 5:54 of the second quarter when LeBron James spearheaded a 20-3 Lakers run that had the Nuggets trailing 56-41 after leading 38-36 at the end of the first quarter.
During the run, the Nuggets committed six turnovers (16 for the game) and were called for eight personal fouls. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray picked up their third and fourth foul respectively, forcing them to sit major chunks of the quarter.
"We were called for 16 personal fouls in that quarter," Denver head coach Michael Malone said postgame talking about the game-altering second quarter. "And then on top of that seven turnovers, again fueling their break."
Nuggets coach Michael Malone on FT disparity in Lakers' Game 1 blowout win: "They went to the foul line 24 times in one quarter. 24 times in a quarter, which is an extremely high number. On pace for almost 100. And we were called for 16 personal fouls in that (second) quarter." pic.twitter.com/25IemkTgfC- Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) September 19, 2020
"I have to go back and watch the film to see what we can do better. How do we defend without fouling because we're not going to beat that team by putting them on the line 37 times."
In the second period, Nikola Jokic picked up his third and Jamal Murray picked up his fourth, forcing both Denver stars to spend a majority of the quarter on the bench.
"I don't know if there's anything I can do. I can't go out there and play for [Jokic] him," Malone continued. "We just have to be a little bit smarter. We got to show our hands."
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Reacting to the whistles, or lack thereof for his team, Murray even picked up a technical in the second quarter.
"I'm not going to sit here and just blame it on the refs," Murray said postgame. "That's not what I'm doing. We just got to play through it and earn the respect."
Murray and Jokic had 21 points apiece on a combined 15-of-26 shooting from the field but neither was able to get into a rhythm and by the fourth quarter, the game was out of hand for them to check back in. The Canadian guard just played 29 minutes and had a plus-minus of -21 while the Serbian center played 25 minutes and was a -19.
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Foul trouble wasn't the only concern for the Nuggets. Denver coughed up the ball 16 times that led to 22 points for the Lakers and simply failed to stop the Lakers from scoring areas that they are comfortable.
"I think we just going to adjust the pace. Even after made baskets...we just have to be better," Murray said. "We'll just come back and be better and try to be more physical. Try to hit them early [in style of play], try to get on a run and push the pace in our favor."
To make this a series, Denver must improve their defense, especially in transition. "Our mindset needs to be, 'Get back, get back, get back'" Jokic said postgame.
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