The glitz of the rings and the sight of the banner were certainly enjoyable. But what the Denver Nuggets truly savored was launching their defense of the organization’s inaugural NBA championship with a 119-107 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday evening.
“We can’t dwell on last year too much,” Jamal Murray remarked after the Nuggets, in a season-opening NBA contest, hoisted their championship banner and then decisively defeated the Lakers. This game showcased Nikola Jokic’s triple-double performance and witnessed LeBron James taking more frequent breaks than usual.
Jokic registered 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists, while Jamal Murray contributed 21 points, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 20, Aaron Gordon amassed 15, and Michael Porter Jr. netted 12.
All of LA’s starting players achieved double-digit point totals, with LeBron James leading the way with 21 points in 29 minutes, as his playing time was carefully monitored at the outset of his 21st season.
“It helps,” Murray said with a smile.
James ended up with about five fewer minutes of playing time than he’s accustomed to.
“I always have the desire to be on the court,” James expressed. “Especially when there’s a chance to secure a victory or make a meaningful contribution. However, I understand that there’s a designated system in place, and I’ll adhere to it.”
James, who, at the age of 38, is the league’s eldest player, emphasized that he’s “neither surprised nor upset” by the Lakers’ careful monitoring of his playing time as the season kicks off.
In his Lakers debut, Taurean Prince amassed 18 points, marking his fifth team in nine seasons. Anthony Davis contributed 17 points, Austin Reaves scored 14, and D’Angelo Russell added 11.
Although the Lakers fell behind by 18 early in the game, they managed to reduce that margin to 63-54 by halftime. They executed a 13-0 run, stretching from the third to the fourth quarter, which brought them within striking distance at 87-84. However, their momentum was halted when Aaron Gordon sank a 3-pointer.
The Lakers never got closer.
“And I was also thinking about my father, just wish he was here.”
Brendan Malone, the longtime coach and driving force behind the Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” defenses in the late 1980s and early ’90s, died earlier this month at age 81.
“So, a lot of emotions tonight but all really positive,” Malone said, “and to end it with a win is a great way to start the season off.”
The Nuggets went 16-4 in the playoffs — including a sweep of the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals — and finished things off by closing out Miami in five games to start a summer of celebrations from Denver’s delirious downtown to Jokic’s hometown of Sombor, Serbia.
“I was also thinking about my father, just wishing he was here.”
Brendan Malone, the coach and influential figure behind the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” defenses during the late 1980s and early ’90s, passed away earlier this month at the age of 81.
“So, tonight brought forth a lot of emotions, all of them really positive,” Malone commented. “Ending it with a victory is a wonderful way to kick off the season.”
During the playoffs, the Nuggets achieved a remarkable record of 16 wins and 4 losses, which included a sweeping victory over the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. They capped off their victorious journey by securing a championship in just five games against Miami, initiating a summer of jubilation from the bustling streets of downtown Denver to Jokic’s hometown of Sombor, Serbia.
JOKIC SNUBBED AND PRAISED
Jokic, despite following up two consecutive MVP seasons with a championship for the Nuggets, was notably left off TNT’s promotional graphic for its opening-night doubleheader featuring the Lakers-Nuggets and Suns-Warriors games.
The graphic highlighted LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Jayson Tatum, even though the Celtics didn’t play until Wednesday night. Charles Barkley, the co-host of TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” expressed his apology to the Nuggets and their fans for this omission, acknowledging the oversight.
However, during a pregame interview, Barkley also shared his thoughts on the Nuggets’ chances of repeating their success. He mentioned that he believes the Nuggets are in contention and expressed his admiration for Bruce Brown, the starting small forward who recently signed a two-year, $45 million contract with the Indiana Pacers after the Nuggets’ championship victory.
Barkley emphasized the need for the Nuggets to find a replacement for Brown and for their younger players to step up, all while adjusting to the new role of being the hunted team.