The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 126-114 to go 1-0 up in the NBA Western Conference final in Florida.
Anthony Davis top-scored with 37 points and 10 rebounds in what was the Lakers’ first conference final series appearance since 2010.
The second match of the best-of-seven series takes place on Monday.
“It took a quarter for us to kind of figure it out,” said LeBron James, who added 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds for the Lakers.
“I’m not saying we fully figured them out because it’s too early in the series to say that.”
The opening quarter was edged by the Nuggets but the Lakers overpowered their opponents in the second period.
Power forward Davis’ 33 points by the end of the third quarter guided the Lakers to a handsome 23-point lead and one step closer to winning their first NBA title in a decade.
“We haven’t done anything special,” Davis said. “We basically took care of home court. We have three more to go.”
Ill discipline from the Nuggets, including star trio Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap, ultimately hampered a comeback.
Jokic and Murray’s contribution of 21 points each was not enough – and Nuggets coach Mike Malone afterwards criticised his side’s defence.
“Our offense was able to score the ball but there was little defence,” Malone said, after the Lakers were gifted 24 free-throws in the second quarter.
“Twenty-four times in one quarter, and we were called for 16 personal fouls in that quarter,” Malone said.
“On top of that, seven turnovers – again fuelling their break.”
The Nuggets will now have to muster the spirit they showed in coming from 3-1 down in their previous two series wins to reach their first-ever NBA final.
The Miami Heat play the Boston Celtics on Sunday for a chance to go 3-0 up in their Eastern Conference final.
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