Mendoza: Lakers finally win an opener

All Write

THE Comeback Kid never came back. And the top seed finally bared its fangs at the bark of the starting gun.

Used to giving us come-from-behind wins, Denver just couldn’t do it this time.

Facing the Los Angeles Lakers, ranked No. 1 and fresh from inspiring 4-1 routs of Portland and Houston, respectively, the Nuggets were put in their proper place—as mere pretenders. Finally.

Erasing Game One losses previously to Portland and Houston, Los Angeles immediately blasted away, flooring the gas pedal in the second quarter after yielding an inconsequential 38-36 first quarter deficit.

After unleashing a blistering 9-0 run for a quick 45-38 lead to start the second quarter, the Lakers followed that up with another blinding 11-3 bomb for a 56-41 margin at the 5:21 mark.

The Lakers were unstoppable from there. So crippling was their attack in the final half that it was as if you were seeing a rickety train transforming horrendously into a wayward train.

The game was for 48 minutes but at the half, it was clear as day that the Lakers were already in total control after erecting a 70-59 bubble in the NBA’s West Finals.

By third quarter’s end, the Laker lead ballooned to 24 points, 103-79, chiefly because Anthony Davis had magnificently compiled 33 points at that point.

A big credit to the Denver demolition goes to the back-to-form Rajon Rondo, the long-lost third jewel anchored, of course, on Davis and LeBron James.

That’s what Denver sorely lacked—a similar third man to back up Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.

Rondo combined for 19 assists with James after only three quarters—with James registering another double-double of 15 points and 12 feeds behind Davis’ 37 points and 10 rebounds.

So confident was Laker coach Frank Vogel of victory that he rested James in practically the entire fourth quarter, where Los Angeles built leads of as many as 27 points at 106-79.

If Denver wishes to come back early, it must contain its fouls in Game Two as Murray and Jokic were slowed down with four and five touches, respectively, going into the last quarter.

Can the Nuggets do it? See you Monday.


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