Jan 23, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) attempts a free throw in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid voters may be rethinking their MVP ballots after seeing Nikola Jokić go ballistic in Tuesday night’s series opener, leading the top-seeded Denver Nuggets to a 132-126 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately for Nuggets bettors, an untimely miss from Jokić at the end of the game led to an all-time bad beat.

Jokić was in rare form against the Lakers, registering the 12th triple-double of his postseason career (tied with Russell Westbrook for third all-time) with 34 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists.

Running on fumes, the 28-year-old Serbian hit the front of the iron on his first of two free-throw attempts with 10.9 seconds remaining. Though Jokić’s rare miss wouldn’t affect the game’s final outcome, it did impact the spread (either -6.5 or -7 depending on where you wagered), with Denver falling one point short of covering. That’s a disastrous beat unless you took the points, in which case, drinks are on you tonight.

It looked like a wrap for L.A. with Denver stretching its advantage to 21 midway through the third quarter, only for the visitors to mount a furious comeback, cutting the deficit to three with just over a minute remaining.

Though it came in a losing effort, Anthony Davis was magnificent, singlehandedly keeping Los Angeles in the game with 40 points, 10 boards, three steals, two blocks, and no turnovers over 42 hard-fought minutes.

These teams will be back in action Thursday night with tipoff scheduled for 8:30 PM ET on ESPN.

About Jesse Pantuosco

Jesse Pantuosco joined Awful Announcing as a contributing writer in May 2023. He’s also written for Audacy and NBC Sports. A graduate of Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s degree in creative writing from Fairfield University, Pantuosco has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut and never misses a Red Sox, Celtics or Patriots game.