The Nuggets in the G1 loss

After the Lakers' 132-126 Game 1 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, LeBron James marched off the court and closed his eyes as he craned his head back in frustration. "Oh my god," he exclaimed when Los Angeles nearly stole a win from its opponent.

Los Angeles trailed by as many as 21 points, was outrebounded by 17, and allowed Denver to score 72 points in the first half -- the most L.A.'s defense has allowed all postseason -- but still had a chance to tie the game with James's 3-pointer at the buzzer that missed wide right.

The Nuggets played like the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference that they are, with two-time MVP Nikola Jokic putting together a brilliant night: 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists all while shooting over 50 percent from 3-point range (8 for 16). Jamal Murray also scored 31 points on 12–20 shooting—all while finishing multiple highlight plays.

But the Lakers also showed how they've been able to outmaneuver their playoff opponents so far: Coach Darvin Ham's adjustments have worked well, and Anthony Davis has stepped up big time.
By switching onto Jokic, Rui Hachimura freed up Anthony Davis to play farther back in defense.

"You have to change up your tactics from time to time, and you have to be willing to throw something different at the opponent," Hammond said. "We did that today—got us back into it."

Of the 55 possessions that ended with Jokic being defended by Davis, Denver scored 1.45 points per play and shot 66% from the field according to ESPN Stats & Information data. When Hachimura was defending Jokic in this same scenario, however - Denver averaged just 0.67 points per play in 15 possessions and shot 20% from the field.

"I think this series will be a big one for me, since they have very big players," said Hachimura. "We need size on our team and I believe that my presence in the paint can help us win."

Hachimura said he was prepared by the Lakers' coaching staff to expect the assignment on Jokic at times during this series. He's massive in his own right, a 6-foot-8, 230-pounder who will nonetheless struggle against Jokić's size (6-11 and 284 pounds) if he tries to use brute force in guarding him—he'll just end up on his knees trying!

In the second half, L.A.'s offense focused on getting the ball to Murray whenever James initiated a pick-and-roll, and he responded by scoring 15 of his 26 points and recording six of nine assists in that span.

"It’s obviously a part of our game plan, to attack the person in foul trouble," Ham said. "Murray was the obvious target we went after when he got into foul trouble."

In the face of adversity for the first time all postseason, several members of the Lakers expressed confidence about where their team was headed.

"We'll be OK," Ham said. "Trust me."

"We'll be better," James told reporters. "In the first half we didn't play up to our capabilities, but you know we'll be better in Game 2."

The Nuggets also started two players who were both 6-10 -- Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon—alongside 7-footer Nikola Jokic, as well as 6-5 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and 6–4 Gary Harris in the backcourt -- a starting lineup adjustment for Game 2 to have Hachimura's size on the floor from the opening tip seems like an obvious play for Ham.

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