Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): For the first time this postseason, we saw the Los Angeles Lakers take Game 1 of a series when they defeated the Denver Nuggets to kick off the Western Conference Finals.
As we've seen time and time again this playoffs, the Nuggets have no issues playing from behind, but it's imperative they respond well and put up a fight in Game 2 to keep things manageable moving forward.
With that being said, what are a couple things that jump out to you that Denver will have to do differently in this next game to even the series?
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): The first thing that sticks out to me is that this series is clearly a different animal than the first two. This Lakers team isn't the LA Clippers or the Utah Jazz, so I don't think the Nuggets can look back to their comebacks from the first two rounds for ideas in Game 2 here.
Denver should start by focusing on the defensive end. Michael Malone was not pleased at all at his team's transition defence and quite frankly, that defensive effort is not gonna slide against a team with LeBron James and Rajon Rondo leading the charge. I mean, LA was getting easy buckets after made shots. That's just unacceptable.
MORE: What to watch for in Lakers-Nuggets Game 2
Irving: It seemed like everything was coming easy for the Lakers, and not just their two superstars, either.
You go down the box score and you see Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 18 points shooting 60% from the field, Dwight Howard had 13 points shooting 80% from the field, Kyle Kuzma had 11 points shooting 63% from the field, Markieff Morris had nine points shooting 75% from the field.
I think a lot of credit goes to just how easy LeBron and Rondo have made life for all of their teammates, but Denver simply has to make things tougher on that end of the floor. They can't let Anthony Davis go off for 37 and let the supporting cast dominate too.
McGregor: And that's the scary part for Denver.
AD went for an efficient 37 and all LeBron had to do was score 15 and dish out 12 assists. I know he had the ankle injury but, historically, he uses these Game 1s to feel things out, so it seemed like he was figuring out how he could surgically pick apart this Nuggets defence. It just resulted in those games from KCP, Dwight, Kuzma and Morris.
Even if LA's supporting cast doesn't replicate that efficiency, which, is a high standard to hold them to, I'm almost willing to guarantee (no, Charles Barkley) that we'll see LeBron score more than 15 in Game 2.I say that to say, what Denver does to make things tougher might be obsolete when we see LeBron look to shoot more than 11 times.
Irving: And when LeBron shoots more than 11 times and scores more than 15 points, that's going to require the Nuggets' supporting cast to give them more than they did in Game 1.
Michael Porter Jr., Jerami Grant and Gary Harris combined to shoot 3-for-16 (18.8%) from beyond the arc in the first game. While I'll give Grant a bit of a pass since he has his hands full with trying to defend James on the other end, Harris and Porter Jr. have to produce to keep things close and competitive - especially if the Lakers "other guys" are going to play they way they did in Game 1.
If Denver is relying on Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to outscore all of Los Angeles' weapons, this series will be over quick.
McGregor: I'm glad you mentioned MPJ and Harris. It's a big ask of those young guys and, honestly, I'll give them a pass since it was a Game 1 after an emotional seven-game series but that pass expired after Game 1.
We talk so much about Denver's depth and young talent. Well, for them to have any chance to even this series up, it won't be solely on the backs of Jokic and Murray.They gotta get more from one of those guys. But who is their prime candidate to step it up?
Irving: As much as I want to go with the rollercoaster ride that is Porter Jr., I'm going to say it's Harris.
He's had plenty of time to get comfortable on the court after missing the seeding games and majority of the first round of the playoffs with a hip injury. He's a sharpshooter who can get hot in a hurry, and we've already seen him swing a playoff game when he hit four 3s in the fourth quarter of the Nuggets' Game 2 win over the Clippers in the Semifinals.
He's no stranger to the playoffs at this point, so he shouldn't be afraid to take and make big shots when his team needs him most. If Denver comes away with a Game 2 win, I'm confident in saying it's because Harris finds his stroke from downtown.
Who would you go with... MPJ? Or someone else?
McGregor: I guess I'm a thrillseeker. Sign me up for the rollercoaster!
Seriously, though. MPJ had 14 points and 10 boards in Game 1 … and while 10 of the points came in the fourth after the game was pretty much decided, he was 2-for-3 in that span and got to the line six times.
For a natural scorer like him, seeing the ball go in a few times and being aggressive in spots might be all he needs to get going in Game 2.
Irving: While in the early stages of his career you never know what you're going to get from Porter Jr., he can certainly heat up quickly. A big offensive game from him would be a luxury for the Nuggets and a thorn in the side of the Lakers.
McGregor: So … are we saying a big game from MPJ and/or Harris is the path to Denver tying this series up?
Irving: It definitely puts them in line to succeed but they still need similar - if not better - performances from both Jokic and Murray. It's ridiculous how perfect the Nuggets have to play in order to try and take a game off the Lakers. That's a tribute to how everything is clicking for the Purple and Gold right now.
McGregor: Yeah, I think we're gonna see Jokic finish with more than two assists, too.
But you make a great point, the Nuggets do have to be near perfect to get a win. They can play much much better but perfect is another thing. LeBron said it best: this Lakers team is hitting its stride at the right time. As I said earlier, they're not like the Clippers or Jazz. They're so close to their ultimate goal, everyone is starring in their roles right now.
I don't think they'll dominate to the extent they did in Game 1 but the Lakers are on a mission which makes them tough to beat.
Irving: Yes, the Nuggets have fallen to a 3-1 deficit in each of their first two series of the playoffs, but both times they've been knotted at 1-1 through the first two games.
While I won't go as far as saying it's a must-win for Denver, because we've seen they have limitless fight in them, I will say that the way in which this game unfolds will be telling of the type of series this is going to be.
It'll be fun to see how the Nuggets respond.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.