ORLANDO • LeBron James took to the Disney World court on Friday knowing he finished second to Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player voting.
He said the result “pissed me off” but is a step closer to winning a bigger prize: a fourth NBA ring.
James had 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers dominated the Denver Nuggets 126-114 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
Anthony Davis led all scorers with 37 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who shot out of the gate after dropping their opener in each of their previous two play-off series in the NBA’s coronavirus quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
The Lakers kept up the pressure after the break, perhaps aware that the Nuggets had proved their resilience with some big second-half comebacks to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 4-3 in the previous round.
Denver trimmed the deficit to nine points midway through the third quarter. But their efforts were hampered by stars Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap all getting into early foul trouble, and that was the closest they would get in the second half.
Jokic and Murray both scored 21 points to pace the Nuggets.
The best-of-seven series continues with Game 2 today, when the Lakers expect a fired-up James.
“It definitely sparks him and, like, he got a chip on his shoulder like he’s got something to prove,” Davis said of James’ receiving just 16 first-place votes to Antetokounmpo’s 85 from the group of sports writers and broadcasters.
Antetokounmpo, 25, was named NBA MVP for the second straight season after improving his statistics from last year, averaging career highs in points (29.5) and rebounds (13.6) in fewer minutes. He also led the Bucks to the league’s best regular-season record (56-17) and won the league’s Defensive Player of The Year Award.
“It pissed me off because out of 101 votes I got 16 first-place votes. That’s what pissed me off more than anything,” James said.
“Let’s not get it twisted. I’m great. The voting scale is a little weird for me sometimes.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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