The Los Angeles Lakers started off strong in the Western Conference Finals, convincingly winning game 1 against the Denver Nuggets, 126-114.
The Lakers, who lost game 1 in both the first round and the second round, didn’t make the same mistake thrice as they came out with energy, and executed their game plan to get the W. Anthony Davis was by far the most impressive player last night, as he finished with a monster line of 37 points and 10 rebounds.
But to beat the red hot Nuggets, it would take more than just a phenomenal Anthony Davis. That is where the veterans of the Lakers came in. The more experienced players of the Purple & Gold came into the game and gave the team the boost they needed, and more importantly, they helped lead the team to victory.
Who are these veterans? How do they lead by example?
This was no surprise. LeBron James is always a leader for his team on and off the court. The 35-year-old forward may not have scored as much as Laker fans might be accustomed to, but he definitely led the team in a different way — by facilitating well and getting all of his other teammates involved. He only finished with 15 points, but he had 12 assists to lead the team. He made sure to control the pace and give his teammates the ball when they had the hot hand. He gave the ball to AD where he needed it, and he gave his shooters open looks to knock down some threes. LeBron was able to make the game a lot easier for everyone with his decision making and passing accuracy
LeBron’s passing ability is often overlooked because of his scoring prowess, but he reminded everyone that he is one of the best passers in the game. Being one of the greatest players in the game, Lebron’s teammates always follow his lead, and he will do his very best to lead the team to the title this year.
Playoff Rondo is the real deal. He did not play in the first round of the playoffs, but ever since stepping back onto the floor in the second round, he has delivered time and again. With his playmaking, defense, and scoring abilities, he has shown flashes of brilliance and helped the Lakers get to where they are now. That didn’t stop in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals as he ended up with a solid stat line of 7 points, 9 assists, 2 steals, and a +13 differential for the game. The 34-year-old guard also showed us a lot of hustle that cannot be seen on the stat sheet like his defensive energy, and his ability to settle down and control the pace of the game.
Rondo has always been one of the best floor generals of this generation, and he still shows everyone what he is capable of when the ball is in his hands. The backup point guard has been key for the Lakers so far in the playoffs, and he definitely will continue his exceptional play as the Purple & Gold chase for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Although he barely played in the second round as the Lakers had to fight fire with fire against the small ball Rockets, Dwight Howard played quality minutes in game 1 to help the Lakers to the victory. In his 16th year in the league, the 6’11” center has been a crowd favorite with the Southern California team this season, embracing his role and bringing the energy off the bench every time. He showed the fans how much he wants the championship this year, as he came into the game and was such a force down low, running the floor, boxing out, crashing the boards, and playing excellent defense. He finished with 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and a +14 point differential.
Dwight led the team with his energy and effort, and it rubbed off on his teammates as well as everyone else who seemed to play with that sense of urgency. Against the Denver Nuggets who have such talented big men, Dwight Howard will play a crucial role in limiting their bigs and providing that strong and steady presence off the bench.
With the Clippers losing in the second round, the opportunity to witness a Morris vs Morris Western Conference Finals was taken away. Markieff, who is on the Lakers, showed everyone why he is deserving to be this on a contender this deep into the playoffs. He played a huge role in the second round as the Lakers used him more as a small-ball center, spreading the floor well with his outside shooting.
He continued making an impact for the Purple & Gold as he played an efficient 16 minutes, finishing with 9 points thanks to 3 of 4 shooting from downtown, also tallying 2 steals, and a +13 point differential as well.
The 31-year-old big man from Kansas has been nothing but spectacular ever since joining the Lakers in February. Look for Markieff to continue being an important piece for Frank Vogel as the playoffs go on.
The Lakers, thanks to the leadership from their wily veterans, came out and made a statement in game 1.
The Lakers are 7 wins away from the NBA Championship, and these veterans will provide the experience, knowledge, and composure to bring the team closer and closer to their ultimate goal.
Featured Image: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images