Bench elevates the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 victory

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Lakers’ starters had a great Game 1 versus the Denver Nuggets, but the reserves were equally good in keeping control of the game and providing LA an easy win.

The Los Angeles Lakers delivered a convincing win in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets. Even more encouraging is the contribution the bench made to achieve the 1-0 lead.

We know very well that depth is one of the deciding factors for the success of a team in the postseason and it is especially crucial for the Lakers in this Western Conference Finals, facing a deep Nuggets team. That is certainly one of the aspects that have made them a formidable threat through the playoffs.

As a matter of fact, Denver’s bench outscored LA’s 53 to 48. Yet, the Lakers’ bench was simply better. They shot 6-for-11 from three, had 15 assists and seven steals. LeBron James went scoreless in the second half, simply because there was no need.

Their defensive effort was clearly what made the difference. In the first crucial seven minutes of the second quarter, when most of LA’s backups were on the court, they allowed the Nuggets just five points.

Dwight Howard, who made his meaningful return to the court after playing just 15 minutes in the whole Conference Semifinals, proved his value in the series, holding Nikola Jokic to seven points and two fouls committed for all the 16 minutes he spent on the floor. He also added 13 points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Unsurprisingly, he received the starting nod in the second half, thanks to the job made on the Joker.

Months ago, when Howard was signed by the Lakers, we talked about what his addition would provide, and his defensive work against other centers was a focal point. As great of a shot-blocker JaVale McGee is, he does not represent a great opposition to the big men in the post.

This is exactly the moment for Dwight to shine and give his maximum effort in what he can do best, giving the Lakers a big hand to get to the next round.

Markieff Morris was another with a great performance, scoring nine points on 3-for-4 from three, plus two steals. Kyle Kuzma had his usual good game with 11 points and four rebounds, and Alex Caruso contributed with five points, four assists and the perimeter defense he never fails to bring to the game.

After having almost a triple-double in Game 4 of the Conference Semifinals, followed by a quiet Game 5, Playoff Rondo led the bench once again to success. In just 21 minutes, he had seven points and nine assists with no turnovers, adding two steals and one made three out of one attempt.

He was throwing lobs to Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis all over the floor. His chemistry with AD, developed in their season together in New Orleans back in 2018, is something is becoming increasingly important in Lakers’ dynamics on the floor.

We probably could have seen something similar with DeMarcus Cousins, had he been able to play. After all, they spent two seasons together, one in Sacramento in 2016 and the other in NOLA along with Davis.

The Nuggets are DONE. dark. Next

In this playoffs, the bench suddenly and unexpectedly turned into a productive and reliable tool for the Los Angeles Lakers, making the late-season additions of Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith seemingly unnecessary. They are on the right track and it seems like they are not going to take nights off. Continuing on this path could mean an easier series than anticipated.