Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets was a battle between two of the premier big men in the NBA today. Ultimately, it was Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets holding on late to take the first game of the series, but Anthony Davis had an outstanding performance for the Lakers as well.
Jokic finished with a triple-double of 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists, but in the fourth quarter he had just three points, all on free throws, as well as a pair of turnovers. One big adjustment the Lakers made was having forward Rui Hachimura as the primary defender, which allowed Davis to lurk as the help defender.
It was a move that clearly had some success and Davis and the Lakers liked what it did for the team. “Something that we just went to, a little adjustment,” Davis said after Game 1. “Different adjustment just throughout the course of the game. We did end up liking it. Stayed with it for a while. Maybe something we go to in Game 2, once we go back and look at the film.
“But just thinking about it right now, something that we liked. Just to also have me roaming and things like that. But like I said, good adjustment but we’ll go back and look and see ways that we can be better.”
Hachimura is much bigger and stronger than many realize. Obviously he is still not big enough to simply defend Jokic straight up, but he is just strong enough to impede the two-time MVP enough and with Davis always around as the help defender, it makes things more difficult for the Nuggets star.
It was an adjustment that paid off and now the Lakers will need to figure out a couple of other things if they plan on leaving Denver with a victory under their belt. Most important will be shoring up their rebounding as well as doing a better job of containing Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray.
But Jokic is the centerpiece of the Nuggets offense, and the Hachimura and Davis pairing looks to be the Lakers’ best way of doing so early on in this series.
Darvin Ham says Lakers will continue to switch coverages against Nikola Jokic
While that defensive adjustment did result in some good results for the Lakers, head coach Darvin Ham understands that it doesn’t mean the Lakers should just stick with that solely. For a player as good as Jokic, the Lakers must continue to switch things up.
“Well, I mean, again, it’s not any one coverage that you’re going to be able to stay in versus that kid,” Ham said after the game. “There’s no one person that’s going to stop him. It has to be done by committee and you have to switch up. You have to switch up matchups at times and you have to switch up coverages. We didn’t want to go too deep into the end-game adjustments. You know, it’s still that ultimate chess game.
“So we were comfortable with the results. Gave us a chance to get back into the game, and you know, it’s one of the things we know if we need to go back to it, it’s there. But along with several other things that we didn’t unveil tonight.”
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