We're just one game into the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers' first-round playoff series, and it already looks like it's going to be wildly entertaining.

The defending champion Nuggets had a bit of a slow start out of the gate. At one point they even allowed the Lakers to establish a 12-point lead. Denver would eventually find their footing, turning up the intensity both offensively and defensively. At some points it seemed like the Lakers were throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Nuggets, but the champs slid into a groove that just could not be stopped. Denver wound up taking Game 1 of the series, 114-103.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone wasn't happy with how his team started the game, but he was happy they didn't panic while they were down.

“These games are long games,” said Malone. “I felt we had a ton of great looks in that first half that didn't go down. You just gotta stay with it, and it's great to see our guys do that tonight.

“Our mantra throughout the entirety of the playoffs, even last year, is ‘don't get too high, don't get too low.' … As the game went along, the guys got more and more locked in.”

Nuggets show championship mettle in Game 1

Denver Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) reacts during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers in game one of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena.
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

A common theme in the Nuggets' postgame pressers was ‘not panicking.' Early in the game, the Nuggets had shots that weren't landing. In fact, it reminded Jamal Murray of Denver's 2023 Round 1 matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I remember last year, Game 1 against Minnesota, it was the same kind of thing,” Murray said via The Denver Post's Bennett Durando. “You’re just anticipating so much energy, so much adrenaline running through your body, sometimes you’ve just gotta relax and just take a shot like it’s practice. I wasn’t shooting like it was practice in the first half.”

The Nuggets finished with a field goal percentage of 46.1%, which they considered to be subpar. They also had 13 fewer trips to the free-throw line than the Lakers. If the Nuggets had that working against them, plus had to overcome a 12-point deficit, the Lakers might have some good reasons to be concerned.

Los Angeles undoubtedly came into the game a bit desperate. The last time the Lakers beat the Nuggets in either the regular season or postseason was Dec. 16, 2022.

“To be honest, we are desperate, too. We don't want to lose at home,” said Nuggets star Nikola Jokic. “I think every game is going to be interesting. So, hopefully, we are going to match and be even more physical than them.”

By the end of the night, all of the Nuggets' starters finished in double digits in points. Jokic, Murray, and Aaron Gordon each notched double-doubles.

N. Jokic – 32 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists.

J. Murray – 22 points, 6 rebounds, 10 assists.

A. Gordon – 12 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists. 

The Nuggets might have bent, but more importantly, they didn't break. They exhibited why they are the defending NBA champions.

“I just think we understand, we’re not trying to do anything different. We’re not trying to make stuff up,” said Murray. “Everybody knows where they should be, and everyone knows that if they’re where they should be, they’ll get an open shot. That’s the beauty of this team. It’s just pure basketball.”