Lakers News: Darvin Ham Discusses Possibility Of Starting Rui Hachimura To Defend Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic After Game 1 Success
Rui Hachimura, Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, Lakers, Nuggets
(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

The No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets showed why they paced the Western Conference as their hot shooting night sunk the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 on Tuesday night.

The Lakers mounted a valiant comeback in the fourth quarter, but the damage the Nuggets inflicted in the first half was just too much to overcome. Still, Los Angeles did find some positives in the second half that they can take with them into Game 2.

Chief among them was more minutes for Rui Hachimura, who spent a lot of time guarding Nikola Jokic in the fourth quarter. Darvin Ham explained the move was to give Anthony Davis the ability to contest without being the primary defender on Jokic.

“Well, just, you know, pivoting within the game, making a slight adjustment,” Ham said. “Wanted to take A [Anthony Davis] off as being the initial line of defense and hopefully Rui could turn him, make him go east-west a little bit more. And once he went up to shoot, he shoots 70 percent on those floaters, those short-range chip shots and floaters and hooks and little one-leg fadeaways. He shoots them at an amazing rate, scores them, I should say.

“So just the idea was just to get A behind him a little bit and have A as that big, long arm just ready to contest over the top of Rui. It was good for us in some segments, and we were able after the tough first half, giving up 72 points, and claw our way back into it. The closest we got was three.

“Hats off to them. They came out. They defended their home floor, a lot, a lot of long rebounds and we gave them way too many second-chance points, offensive-rebounding opportunities and 50/50 balls for that matter. We’ve got to be better in transition, and we can’t foul them. We’ve got to be more disciplined showing our hands when we are guarding the ball and guarding those guys around the rim and in the post and whatnot.”

Ham admitted that one scheme isn’t going to slow down Jokic, but did seem to leave open the possibility of moving Hachimura into the starting lineup after seeing how it worked out in Game 1.

“Well, I mean, again, it’s not any one coverage that you’re going to be able to stay in versus that kid. 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.”

Game 2 should feature plenty of adjustments from both teams, and it’ll be interesting to see how much Hachimura is involved and if he is in the starting unit.

Darvin Ham believes Lakers had mobility issue against Nuggets

The three-guard lineup to begin Game 1 flopped on its face, but Ham didn’t think the size difference is what caused Los Angeles issues.

“My first inclination, it’s not even a size factor. It’s a mobility factor. Meaning, like bodies, we had guys, multiple bodies just standing around. No one is seeking out a hit. No one is, you know, one person getting a hit, one person selling out, going after the basketball. A couple of times, the ball just dropped to the ground and someone swooped in from their team and grabbed it.

“You know, at first glance, just coming off the game without having watched it again, that’s what I feel like was happening. Too many possessions where we had bodies in the vicinity of the rebound but just never put a body on their body or went, just made a deliberate attempt to go grab the ball.”

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