Anthony Davis dominated with 37 points and 10 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Denver Nuggets 126-114 in game one of the NBA’s western conference finals.
Davis was ably assisted by LeBron James who added 15 points and dished out 12 assists.
Slow starters in the previous two rounds of the playoffs, the top-seeded Lakers put this one away in a hurry, opening a double-digit lead in the first half that they easily extended in the third quarter.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 points and Dwight Howard rejoined the rotation with 13 poits 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.
LA dropped their opening games against both the Portland Trail Blazer and the Houston Rockets before winning the next four games.
The Lakers quickly knocked off any rust from another long layoff in the bubble against a Denver team that became the first in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit twice in the same post-season.
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.
Game two is on Sunday.
Davis scored 14 points in the first quarter, but the Nuggets shot nearly 64 per cent, with Murray’s three-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.