May 19, 2024

They all sought to downplay any animosity from a summer of back-and-forth trash talk between the Lakers and NBA champion Denver Nuggets. They all talked about the need to turn the page on last season and to look forward to a 2023-24 season that the Lakers and Nuggets were set to open against each other Tuesday night at Ball Arena.

So, when Lakers coach Darvin Ham was asked if his comments on a podcast in which he said “This [bleep] ain’t over” was sending notice to Denver that L.A. is going to be ready for them in the opener, he went in a different direction.

When Nuggets coach Mike Malone went on a podcast over the summer and said, “Speaking of the Lakers, I just want you guys to know — this is breaking news — I’m thinking about retiring, so don’t tell anybody,” he was asked if those comments made this game any more spicy for his team.

His comments referenced LeBron James hinting at retirement.

This all started because the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals and a lot of the talk after was still about the Lakers, which irritated Malone.

Ham and Malone were right when they said their teams would be ready, and even if words had been exchanged, the Nuggets’ 119-107 victory over the Lakers proved the only thing that mattered.

The Nuggets let their actions do the talking when they built an 18-point lead in the second quarter.

The Lakers let their actions do the talking when they cut that lead to three in the fourth.

But even with five players scoring in double figures, the Lakers could not overcome the Nuggets, who also had five players score in double figures.

James, in his 21st season, led the Lakers with 21 points and eight rebounds. Taurean Prince had 18 points, Anthony Davis 17 points and eight rebounds, Austin Reaves 14 points and eight rebounds and D’Angelo Russell had 11 points.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with a triple-double of 29 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

Then, when the game’s outcome no longer was in doubt, Denver fans chanted, “Who’s your daddy!”

Before the game, Ham said his comments were not just for the Nuggets.

“It’s for the whole other 29 teams for us to go out and getting started with the journey on the right foot and be prepared for whoever’s standing in front of us,” Ham said. “Whether it’s the Nuggets, the Suns, it doesn’t matter — the Clippers, Orlando. It’s every other team in the NBA and it’s not about making it personal or emotional about it.”

The Nuggets got their championship rings and raised their first banner before the game in front of a raucous crowd, but the Lakers stayed in their locker room rather than witness Denver celebrate being the NBA champion.

When the Lakers came out for pre-game warmups, those same cheering fans lustily booed.

Malone said his team was not motivated by all the banter.

“Obviously, that’s what you are hearing at least, about they are upset about some things that was said or done over the course of the summer,” Malone said. “So, I guess if that’s their motivation, so be it.”

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