Lakers roll past Nuggets 126-114 in NBA western conference finals opener

The top-seeded Lakers opened a double-digit lead in the first half that they easily extended in the third quarter. (AP)
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Updated 19 September 2020

Lakers roll past Nuggets 126-114 in NBA western conference finals opener

  • Top-seeded Lakers opened a double-digit lead in the first half that they easily extended in the third quarter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: Slow starters in the first two rounds, the Los Angeles Lakers appeared to be in a hurry to put away the Denver Nuggets.
It was a strong statement to their opponent — and maybe to the NBA’s MVP voters.
Anthony Davis had 37 points and 10 rebounds, LeBron James added 15 points and 12 assists hours after finishing a distant second in the MVP voting, and the Lakers rolled to a 126-114 victory on Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
The top-seeded Lakers opened a double-digit lead in the first half that they easily extended in the third quarter.
“It took a quarter for us to kind of figure it out,” James said. “Not saying we fully figured them out because it’s too early in the series to say that, but we started to get a better feel. Just started to get in a better rhythm defensively and we started to get some stops in that second quarter and we were able to build that lead up going into halftime.”
James acknowledged being “pissed off” at receiving just 16 first-place votes to winner Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 85 from a panel of global sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league, and the Nuggets may have felt the wrath of that.
“It definitely sparks him and like he got a chip on his shoulder like he’s got something to prove,” Davis said.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 points and Dwight Howard rejoined the rotation with 13 in a powerful return to the conference finals for the Lakers, who hadn’t been to the NBA’s final four since winning their last championship in 2010.
Los Angeles dropped Game 1 against both Portland and Houston before winning the next four games. The Lakers quickly knocked off any rust for another long layoff in the bubble against a Denver team that’s had things much tougher.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray each scored 21 points for the Nuggets, playing in the conference finals for the first time since the Lakers beat them in 2009.
Denver overcame 3-1 deficits against Utah and the Clippers, becoming the first team to do that twice in a postseason. The Nuggets immediately fell behind again, digging themselves a big hole when Jokic and Murray each picked up three fouls in the first half that just got deeper in the second half.
“We know how it’s going to be. We know we’re the younger team. We’re just going to play through it,” Murray said about the fouls discrepancy. “We’re going to find a way and we’re not going to go away so easy.”
Game 2 is Sunday.
Davis scored 14 points in the first quarter, but the Nuggets shot nearly 64 percent, with Murray’s 3-pointer as time expired giving them a 38-36 lead.
Alex Caruso converted a three-point play to open the second and start a 17-1 run by the Lakers to start the period and make it 53-39 before the Nuggets made their first field goal after more than five minutes.
The lead stayed right around there for the remainder of the half, as the Lakers paraded to the foul line while Jokic, Murray and Paul Millsap went the bench with three fouls. Los Angeles shot a whopping 24 free throws in the period — more baskets than either team made in the half — and led 70-59 at the break.
An 11-2 burst in the third blew it open at 92-71 and the Lakers cruised home.


Hamilton looks to steer Mercedes to seventh world title at Imola

Updated 8 min 33 sec ago

Hamilton looks to steer Mercedes to seventh world title at Imola

IMOLA, Italy: Fresh from his record 92nd career win last Sunday, Lewis Hamilton will be the center of attention again this weekend when his Mercedes team aim to seal a record seventh constructors title.

In addition to leading the ‘silver arrows’ bid for unprecedented glory at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Hamilton will face inquiries about his future following Monday’s unanimous agreement, by all 10 teams, to support the introduction of a salary cap from 2023.

As the six-time champion is out of contract at the end of this season, it is certain that the dramatic cost-cutting measure will have a direct effect on his negotiations with Mercedes as they seek to retain him.

The team has made clear that they see him as an important asset for their brand and the sport as Formula One enjoys rapid growth in younger demographic groups in the digital age.

Hamilton was expected to begin talks on a new three-year deal as soon as Mercedes complete their seventh title success, Covid-19 restrictions notwithstanding.

Both Hamilton and team chiet Toto Wolff said following last Sunday’s race that they intend to stay together with Mercedes next year.

The salary cap was agreed after discussions during Monday’s Formula One Commission video meeting and the plan is due to be confirmed by the World Motor Sport Council.

Wolff has said he would prefer to avoid any delays to a long-term deal and is against going for a one-year extension.

“Covid has really changed the way we do business and I think everything should be done this year,” he said.

“I don’t want to go into any other negotiation midway through next year and drag it on again.

“We all need to concentrate on our work — Lewis driving, me running the team and Ola Kallenius (chairman of Daimler) turning the big wheel.”

As the F1 circus returns to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari for the first time in 14 years, and for Italy’s 100th F1 race, Mercedes need 11 points to confirm their record seventh straight title win.

As last Sunday’s Hamilton-Valtteri Bottas 1-2  at Portimao was a fourth this year and they average more than 36 points per race, that may seem to be a formality.

But, without any scheduled practice on Friday ahead of the sport’s first official two-day race weekend, the teams will all be under extra pressure to hit the ground running on Saturday morning.

For Wolff, it is just part of the job as he works with next year and 2022 in mind.

“Everything we do from now on is important for next year,” he said. “And for setting the pace and the roots for the 2022 regulations.”