If your glass is half-empty, Game 1 of the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round NBA Playoffs matchup with the Denver Nuggets went about as badly as possible. D'Angelo Russell's struggles against the champs continued, the Lakers' defensive options on Nikola Jokic besides Anthony Davis were predictably insufficient, and their nonexistent margin for error was exploited with each lapse in execution.

“I thought we played some good ball tonight, but we could’ve been better,” said LeBron James (27 points, 10-for-16 shooting, 41 minutes). “We just don’t have much room for error versus this Denver team, especially on their home floor. It’s just a team that’s been through everything. Obviously, they’re the defending champions, so you gotta execute, you gotta make shots, you gotta defend. And then, you can’t give them extra possessions.”

The Lakers — an excellent 3-point shooting team since February — shot 8-for-29 from 3-point range. Denver, one of the few teams in the NBA to average fewer triples per game than Los Angeles, shot 15-for-42.

Russell — coming off the best shooting season in franchise history — went 1-for-9, amid a detrimental 6-for-20 night. Including the 2023 Western Conference finals, Russell is 3-for-24 from deep in five playoff games against Denver.

“Just get ready for Game 2,” challenged AD. “We can't do anything about this. But you can do something about Game 2. We know what DLo brings to our team. … Just gotta do it. It's not a regular season game where we have time. We're down 0-1.”

Russell, for his part, was encouraged by his shot quality.

The idea of a positive spin isn't misguided. The Lakers led 47-35 and were scoring at will until midway through the second quarter, when they briefly lost their focus. A couple of sloppy minutes was all Denver needed to reclaim momentum.

“I’ve never played on the championship team and didn’t pay attention to detail,” said LeBron. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. You have to.”

A few more made 3-pointers and a general uptick in aggression from Russell, Austin Reaves (one free throw attempt), and Rui Hachimura (four shot attempts) might've kept the game competitive into crunchtime.

There are ways to mitigate Russell, if he's not playmaking. The Lakers can cut his minutes, feelings be damned. Gabe Vincent and Spencer Dinwiddie are superior defensive options, anyway. The Lakers — nearly unbeatable when they commit to calling plays — can force more Reaves/LeBron pick-and-rolls. Seek Hachimura out more actively on the baseline. All the stuff they've been doing for months.

They also have to be more formidable inside.

Lakers' big adjustment for Game 2 vs. Nuggets

“Loving and loving in the paint,” in Darvin Ham parlance, is core to the Lakers' identity. Against Denver, though, they tend to be outmuscled. In Game 1, the Lakers were -9 on the glass, surrendered 18 second-chance points, yet also lost the transition battle. Denver was +10 in the paint.

“We can't be bad at defensive rebounding and transition,” said AD, who put up 32 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks. “Something that we struggled with against this team since last playoffs. We can't not excel in one of them. Especially not both. Once again, that's our Achilles heel. We have to be better in both departments, if not, one.”

Of course, Nikola Jokic controls the paint. The two-time MVP pressed his foot harder and harder on the Lakers' neck as the second half wore on, bouldering his way to 32 points (15-of-23 FG), 12 rebounds, and seven assists in 39 minutes.

Afterward, Ham said the Lakers' have plenty of ideas for what to throw at Jokic. The Lakers primarily used Davis as the defender, but Hachimura took shifts, too — a tactic that worked relatively well — aka, not really at all —in the conference finals.

“We’ll look at it and make our adjustments,” said AD. “Talk among ourselves and just kind of see if we’re helping Rui, if we’re leaving him on an island when he scores and things like that. Then we’ll make the proper adjustments going into Game 2. If that means that I’m on him for the whole game then so be it. But that was the game plan going into tonight.”

That might have to be the case. With Hachimura as the primary defender, Jokic shot 8-for-9 in Game 1. (Jaxson Hayes played four minutes. The Lakers are reportedly getting Christian Wood back for Game 3.)

“I’m sure a bunch of them were contested,” Ham said of Jokic's effectiveness on Hachimura. “They weren’t open. The kid’s a hell of a player. Like, you’re going to play great defense, and he’s still going to score.

” … And yeah, if we have to go to something else, adjustment-wise, we do have a couple more things that we can throw at them.”

So that's all the Lakers have to do to break a nine-game losing streak against the defending champions on their home floor: Play perfect basketball, and stop the best player in the world.