LeBron James-led Lakers hand Denver its first loss of the season

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after a shot during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.
Oct 25, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after a shot during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets suffered their first loss of the season Thursday night 121-114 at the hands of LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets started ultra aggressive on the offensive end of the floor with Jamal Murray setting the pace early. After a layup on the Nuggets first possession, Murray hoisted up six shots in the games first four minutes.

After going just 3-23 in the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings, Denver bounced back with four field goals before the 7:30 mark in Los Angeles. Murray added two of those for five points as he attempted to silence the Lakers faithful who still hold a grudge against the Nuggets point guard.

In what ended up being a sloppy opening period, the Nuggets still came away with a 26-22 lead after shooting just 12-27 from the field. Murray and Gary Harris each finished the first frame with five points while Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap were not far behind with four points each.

With the Nuggets bench unit in to start the second quarter, Denver was able to weather the storm before the starters came back in. Mason Plumlee was key to the second units success, contributing six points on a perfect 3-3 shooting from the field.

After the Lakers took a 38-37 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, a back-and-fourth affair ensued until around the four minute mark. That was when Denver went on a 12-2 run to push their lead to six, highlighted by a personal 5-0 run from Monte Morris. A three pointer and layup in transition forced the Lakers to take a timeout.

Los Angeles followed the Nuggets surge with an 8-0 run themselves, helping give them a 58-57 lead going into halftime.

Jokic finished the half as the Nuggets leading scorer with 11 points to go along with six rebounds. All three of Murray, Harris, and Trey Lyles finished the first half with nine points, with Morris also chipping in six assists.

The Nuggets biggest issue in the first half was stopping LeBron James, as he finished with 14 points, eight assists, and six rebounds in the games first two quarters.

Murray got Denver’s offense going with seven-straight points to open the second half to give the Nuggets some rhythm out of the halftime locker room. After numerous lead changes to start the third quarter, Denver had a 71-69 lead at the 7:33 mark courtesy of a Millsap jump shot.

The Lakers answered back with a 6-0 run to push their lead to 81-75. Denver would answer back though immediately getting the ball to Jokic, who went to work on Los Angeles big men Kyle Kuzma and Johnathan Williams. Neither player had an answer for Jokic, as he went on a personal 6-0 run to tie the game up at 81.

Jokic finished the third quarter with 11 points to give him 22 for the game as the Nuggets took an 89-87 lead going into the final period.

As great as Jokic was, the story of the game continued to be Denver’s second unit. The Nuggets rode their bench unit as long as possible in the fourth. The reason for that? The play of Morris, who posted a career-high 20 points. Not only did Morris score the ball effectively, but he also led the Nuggets in assists with seven and had the teams highest +/- with a rating of +7.

Jokic would sub back in at the five minute mark immediately nailing a jumper to give the Nuggets a 108-104 lead. The play of Lance Stephenson kept the Lakers in the game though, as he went on a personal 8-0 run to help the Lakers tie the game at 108. Stephenson would finish the game with just 12 points off the bench, but the spark he gave Los Angeles was monumental in their success.

The Lakers would not look back after the three-minute mark, as they dominated Denver in the closing minutes of the game. The play from Stephenson and the triple-double from James was to much for the Nuggets to overcome as they suffered their first loss of the season 121-114. James finished the night with 28 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds to go along with Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee, who scored 22 and 21 points respectively.

For Denver, Jokic led the way offensively with 24 points to along with 10 rebounds for yet another double-double. Murray wasn’t far behind with 22 points as he also got a double-double finishing the night with 10 rebounds.

The Nuggets now have three days off before they arere back in action Monday night at the Pepsi Center in a matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans.