Dribbles: In this Game 1, LeBron and Lakers leave little room for doubt

Sam Amico

Random dribbles from the Los Angeles Lakers' 126-114 hammer job of the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Friday.

1. It sure appears as if LeBron James is on his way to the Finals again, this time with yet another team.

2. Of course, this time it would be with a Western Conference team. But if there's anything we have learned about LeBron, he is always setting another goal, always chasing another first.

3. This was only one game, and the Nuggets are a proud bunch that has overcome back-to-back 3-1 deficits this postseason. They were blown out by the Clippers in much the same way they were the Clippers. Despite early appearances, they are not an easy out.

4. Twice in their first-round series vs. the Utah Jazz, the Nuggets were down 30 points. Twice. And they overcame it all.

5. That said, neither of the previous opponents had LeBron on the roster. He controlled the game on this night, as a competitive game quickly turned into a basketball bloodbath.

6. The Lakers destroyed the Nuggets in transition, particularly in the third quarter. Anthony Davis scored 16 of his 37 points in the third, with the Lakers turning a halftime lead of 11 at halftime to 103-79. 

7. Yes, this is the first time the Lakers won a Game 1 in the 2020 playoffs. Guess they learned their lesson. Their intensity was off the charts pretty much from the start.

8. Along with James and Davis, Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo (nine assists) has really made a difference. I had my doubts about that happening when the Lakers signed him at the start of last season. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka may have even had some doubts, who knows?

9. Basically, I don't think anyone expected Rondo to make this kind of impact. But the cagey veteran has delivered, his championship experience shining through. Along with making some timely shots, Rondo has taken some of the ball-handling and leadership burden off of James. That counts for a lot. As it is to forget, LeBron is 35-years old.

10. Rondo on his role to TNT: "Just poise and confidence. Take care of the ball and lead by example. ... (LeBron) brought me here for a reason. I'm here to make his job a lot easier."

11. LeBron finished with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, passing for a game-high 12 assists. All of his points came in the first half. But everyone who suited up played for the Lakers. Yes, that includes J.R. Smith, who even buried a 3-pointer during garbage time.

12. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 21 points apiece, but neither made much of an impact. The Lakers' defense seems to get better with each series.

13. For the Nuggets, it will be interesting to see what Michael Porter Jr. can do in this series. He is sort of their X-Factor, because he has size and athleticism and loads of confidence. He tends to play well against LA and did so again on this night, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

14. For more coverage on the West finals, be sure to give a follow to SI.com Lakers reporter Melissa Rohlin. Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday at 7:30 p.m. EST on the Disney campus. 

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