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Lakers roll past Nuggets 126-114 in West finals opener

Sat Sep 19 3:18am ET

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James dunks the ball as Denver Nuggets' Monte Morris (11), the Lakers' Kyle Kuzma (0), and the Nuggets' Mason Plumlee (7) and Jerami Grant (9) look on during the first half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Denver Nuggets' Michael Porter Jr., left, and Los Angeles Lakers' Alex Caruso, right, compete for control of a loose ball during the second half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23), Rajon Rondo (9) and Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic, wait for play to restart during the second half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel instructs his team during the second half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Los Angeles Lakers' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) calls for a foul against the Denver Nuggets after scoring a basket during the second half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Los Angeles Lakers' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, left, greets LeBron James, right, on the court during a time out from play in the second half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron Jame makes a pass during the second half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, attempts a shot over Denver Nuggets' Paul Millsap, bottom front, Nikola Jokic, bottom center, and Jamal Murray (27) during the second half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (15) and head coach Michael Malone, right, react as referee Courtney Kirkland, center, charges a foul against Jokic during the first half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) gestures after an officials call as Kyle Kuzma (0) walks behind in the first half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Slow starters in the first two rounds, the Los Angeles Lakers appeared to be in a hurry to put away the Denver Nuggets.

It was a strong statement to their opponent - and maybe to the NBA's MVP voters.

Anthony Davis had 37 points and 10 rebounds, LeBron James added 15 points and 12 assists hours after finishing a distant second in the MVP voting, and the Lakers rolled to a 126-114 victory on Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

The top-seeded Lakers opened a double-digit lead in the first half that they easily extended in the third quarter.

''It took a quarter for us to kind of figure it out,'' James said. ''Not saying we fully figured them out because it's too early in the series to say that, but we started to get a better feel. Just started to get in a better rhythm defensively and we started to get some stops in that second quarter and we were able to build that lead up going into halftime.''

James acknowledged being ''pissed off'' at receiving just 16 first-place votes to winner Giannis Antetokounmpo's 85 from a panel of global sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league, and the Nuggets may have felt the wrath of that.

''It definitely sparks him and like he got a chip on his shoulder like he's got something to prove,'' Davis said.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 points and Dwight Howard rejoined the rotation with 13 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.

Los Angeles dropped Game 1 against both Portland and Houston before winning the next four games. The Lakers quickly knocked off any rust for another long layoff in the bubble against a Denver team that's had things much tougher.

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.

Denver overcame 3-1 deficits against Utah and the Clippers, becoming the first team to do that twice in a postseason. The Nuggets immediately fell behind again, digging themselves a big hole when Jokic and Murray each picked up three fouls in the first half that just got deeper in the second half.

''We know how it's going to be. We know we're the younger team. We're just going to play through it,'' Murray said about the fouls discrepancy. ''We're going to find a way and we're not going to go away so easy.''

Game 2 is Sunday.

Davis scored 14 points in the first quarter, but the Nuggets shot nearly 64 percent, with Murray's 3-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.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr. had 14 points and 10 rebounds. ... The Nuggets fell to 7-22 against the Lakers in the postseason. ... Denver's 16 fouls in the second quarter tied the most by any team in a quarter this season. It was the first time this season that Murray and Jokic both had three fouls before halftime.

Lakers: Rajon Rondo had nine assists to give him 1,025 in the playoffs, passing Michael Jordan (1,022) for 10th on the NBA's career list. ... Howard sat out three games and played only 4 1/2 minutes in the last four minutes against the small-ball Rockets.

VOGEL'S VOTE

Lakers coach Frank Vogel was a little surprised that Giannis Antetokounmpo was so far ahead of James in voting for the MVP award, receiving 85 first-place votes to James' 16.

''No disrespect for Giannis, Giannis had a great season. He's a great player, but what LeBron does for our team to me is unparalleled,'' Vogel said. ''To carry the threat of going for 40 at any point but leading the league in assists and quarterbacking our defense and driving our team to as many wins as we've had and our playoff success, to me he's our MVP.

''But I understand how the voting goes and quite frankly our whole group and I'm sure LeBron would echo this is focused on something bigger than any individual accolades.''

MILE HIGH MICHAELS

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he had been in touch with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who told him about the passion back home.

''He's told me that it's just so great to see the city all come together and unite behind a feel-good story in the Nuggets and we still have a lot of work to do,'' Malone said. ''So we appreciate all the love and support back home, no doubt.''

Player Notes
Goran Dragic Oct 11 7:00pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) was doubtful for Sunday's NBA Finals Game 6 against the Lakers, but intends to play and is listed as active. Playing with a plantar fascia tear seems like a bad idea, but Dragic reportedly has been told he won't reinjure himself by playing. Dragic won't be near 100 percent and will likely be on a minutes limit, so you shouldn't give him heavy consideration for your DFS lineups. Kendrick Nunn will likely see fewer minutes with Dragic playing, though there's also the possibility that Dragic tries to play and the pain is too much. It's a complicated situation in a must-win Game 6.

Goran Dragic Oct 11 12:30pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's Game 6 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Dragic has been listed as doubtful each game since suffering the injury in Game 1. It sounds like Dragic will test out his foot pregame, but it's highly unlikely that he suits up here. Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn will gain the most fantasy value from the absence of Dragic. Herro is the better option between the two.

Anthony Davis Oct 11 12:30pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis (heel) is listed as probable for Sunday's Game 6 contest against the Miami Heat. However, Davis mentioned on Saturday that he'd be fine for Sunday's contest. He is fully expected to play through the issue and should see his normal workload. LeBron James (groin) and Danny Green (finger) are listed as probable as well, but are expected to take the court on Sunday. The Lakers are a little banged up, but will play through the pain.

Danny Green Oct 11 12:20pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (groin) and guard Danny Green (finger) are listed as probable for Sunday's Game 6 against the Miami Heat. Both players have been listed as probable throughout the series, but continue to play. Green was limited earlier in the series, but played 24 minutes during Game 5. James and Green are expected to see a full workload here.

Kevon Looney Oct 6 9:10pm ET

Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney is expected to have a bigger role on the team next season. Head coach Steve Kerr mentioned that Looney is looking at 20-25 minutes per game for the 2020-2021 campaign. That is a fairly significant increase, but won't make a huge impact on his fantasy value. Looney has been unable to stay healthy and isn't a great option in Golden State. He could have deep league value, but probably not worth a look in 12-team leagues on draft day.

Lauri Markkanen Oct 6 9:00pm ET

Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen is hopeful that he can prove the doubters wrong next season. "My expectations are even higher than ever now, just going back to my fourth year and performing at a high level," said Markkanen. Former head coach Jim Boylen failed to get much out of his young core during his time in Chicago. It sounds like Markkanen is already hitting it off with new head coach Billy Donovan. Markkanen has plenty of talent and should have a significant role on the team going forward. Fantasy owners could look at Markkanen as a sleeper player for next season.

Aron Baynes Oct 6 8:50pm ET

Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes could be headed elsewhere this offseason. The veteran was non-committal when asked about his future with the team. I loved my time in Phoenix, Baynes said. I knew what it was coming in here and I was able to go out there and take advantage of the role that was given to me throughout a number of different situations." Baynes will hit free agency after posting career highs in multiple categories. He could very well land a significant role on another organization. His fantasy value will be dependent on where he signs in free agency.

Goran Dragic Oct 6 8:40pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) won't suit up for Tuesday's Game 4 matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers. He tried to get up some shots pregame, but it was too painful. It doesn't look good for Dragic's chances of playing in this series, but consider him questionable for Game 5. Tyler Herro is expected to join the starting five, while Kendrick Nunn gets more minutes as well. Herro is the better fantasy option between the two.

Bam Adebayo Oct 6 8:40pm ET

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (neck) is officially back in the starting five for Tuesday's Game 4 matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers. He has been sidelined since Game 1, so this is a big lift for Miami. It's unclear whether or not Adebayo will be limited, which makes him a risky DFS option. Kelly Olynyk will see his minutes and playing time decrease here. Meyers Leonard might fall out of the rotation completely.

Bam Adebayo Oct 6 5:40pm ET

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (neck) is planning to make his return for Game 4 of the 2020 NBA Finals against the Lakers on Tuesday night, according to sources. Adebayo missed the previous two games of the series due to a neck strain that he suffered in Game 1, forcing the 23-year-old to exit during the second half of the contest. Adebayo's potential return to the lineup will be encouraging news for the Heat, who may be forced to play without guard Goran Dragic (foot) for the remainder of the series as he is without a timetable for a potential return. Adebayo will serve as a solid DFS option for Tuesday's game if he ends up making his return.

Danny Green Oct 3 8:10pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (hip) was limited during the Game 2 victory over the Miami Heat. He took a hard fall during the second quarter and appeared to have injured his hip. J.R. Smith saw a few minutes after Green checked out, but it doesn't sound like Green will miss time. However, Green was awful during Game 2, so fantasy owners should not expect a bounce back performance out of him.

Bam Adebayo Oct 3 8:10pm ET

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (neck) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He was unable to play in Game 2 due to a neck sprain. Meyers Leonard drew the start, but only played nine minutes. Kelly Olynyk ended up benefiting the most by dropping 24 points in 37 minutes of play. He's looking like a solid DFS option, assuming Adebayo is sidelined again.

Goran Dragic Oct 3 8:10pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He suffered a left plantar fascia tear and the Heat are not optimistic that Dragic will be able to suit up. Tyler Herro should remain in the starting five, while Kendrick Nunn will see more minutes coming his way. Both players could be interesting DFS options without Dragic on the court.

Jimmy Butler Oct 2 6:30pm ET

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (ankle) will suit up for Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. He sprained his left ankle during the first half of Game 1 on Wednesday. It was going to take a lot to keep Butler off the court for this game. Sadly, they will be without Goran Dragic (foot) and Bam Adebayo (neck) on Friday. Butler is going to be asked to do just about everything on offense for Miami.

Bam Adebayo Oct 2 6:30pm ET

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (neck) has been ruled out for Friday's Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers. This is a huge blow to the Heat who are already without Goran Dragic (foot) for this game. Kelly Olynyk, Derrick Jones, and Meyers Leonard are expected to see more playing time on Friday. Jae Crowder could see more action as well, but it'll be hard to fill the void left by Adebayo. None of these players are great DFS options. Jimmy Butler is going to be asked to carry the load on offense.

Goran Dragic Oct 2 6:20pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) has been ruled out for Friday's Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He is still dealing with a foot issue that he suffered during the first game of the series. Kendrick Nunn is expected to join the starting five, while Tyler Herro gets more minutes as well. Both sound like appealing DFS options with the Heat roster banged up.

Goran Dragic Oct 1 12:10pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) could be in danger of missing Game 2 versus the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. The veteran guard suffered a torn plantar fascia during the first half of Wednesday's contest. The team is going to continue to evaluate Dragic before deciding what to do. It sounds like his status for Friday's game is doubtful, but we'll wait and see. Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn would see a boost in fantasy value, assuming Dragic is out.

Bam Adebayo Oct 1 11:50am ET

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (shoulder) suffered an injury and was unable to return during Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Lakers. He was only able to play 21 minutes before suffering a left shoulder strain. The X-rays were negative, which is good news. However, the team might have Adebayo undergo an MRI as well. It's unclear if he'll be able to suit up for Game 2 on Friday. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard would likely gain significant fantasy value if Adebayo sits out.

Jimmy Butler Oct 1 11:40am ET

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (ankle) suffered an injury during the Game 1 matchup versus the Los Angeles Lakers. He sprained his left ankle during the first half of the game, but was able to play through the issue. Butler is currently listed as questionable for Game 2, but it would be shocking if he didn't play. There should be more updates on his status before the game on Friday. Fantasy owners should feel confident that Butler will be on the court for Game 2.

Jayson Tatum Oct 1 11:30am ET

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is reportedly looking to sign a max contract extension this offseason. Celtics team president Danny Ainge said that the organization is confident that they will come to terms on a contract. The two sides won't be able to talk right away due to league rules, but Ainge believes they will be able to lock up Tatum. The All-Star forward appears happy in Boston, so the two sides should be able to come to an agreement. Tatum is basically a lock for the first round in every fantasy format.