Lakers News: Darvin Ham Explains Difficulties Of Game Planning For Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have an important task in the Western Conference Finals — stop a man that no one has figured out how to in the last three seasons.

With each year under his belt, Denver Nuggets superstar and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic becomes more dominant as an offensive player, enough so that Lakers head coach Darvin Ham joked their game plan is to kidnap him. The Denver police department has other ideas, so the Lakers can’t execute that idea.

They may have the solution though in big man Anthony Davis. His defensive playoff run is proving he’s one of the best defenders on the planet — by averaging 20+ points, 12+ rebounds and 2+ blocks per game these playoffs, he is one of five players all-time to average that total in a minimum of 10 games. But to contain Jokic, Davis will have to be otherworldly.

Ham shared that Davis will match up with Jokic, but he won’t be the only one, according to Dan Woike of the L.A. Times:

“We’re gonna have to mix up pitches. [Anthony Davis] will start on him,” Ham said. “We have a few different guys that will see action against him. Just try to put your best foot forward every time out. But again, try to do everything we can to do our work early and keep him off-balance.”

During the 2020 NBA Playoffs, then-Lakers head coach Frank Vogel utilized Dwight Howard off the bench to bruise Jokic. That strategy proved successful, however, the Lakers are limited by their backup bigs to replicate the same during this series.

Jokic is having a video game-esque playoffs, averaging 30 points, 12 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game on 54% shooting from the field and 47% from deep. He already has five triple-doubles in these playoffs, including a monster 30-point, 17-rebound and 17-assist night in Game 3 against the Phoenix Suns.

His combination as an elite playmaker and scorer creates a unique challenge for the Lakers’ defense:

“You’re not gonna speed him up. You’re not gonna slow him down. You just have to make sure you have a presence on him at all times,” Ham said. “There’s gonna be Times where you’re not gonna pitch a shutout against him. There’s gonna be times where you have to withstand his passing, withstand his scoring.

“But you just try to as much as possible to put him in a position where it creates indecision and gets him to be off-balance a little bit — when possible.”

In four games against the Lakers this season, Jokic averaged 23 points, 12 rebounds and 9.8 assists.

Jokic believes Nuggets are facing ‘new team’ from 2020 & earlier this season

The last time the Lakers played the Nuggets, L.A. had a starting lineup of Dennis Schroder, Patrick Beverley, Max Christie, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Thomas Bryant. Only two of those players are still on the Lakers with just Schroder still part of the rotation.

Therefore, it’s a completely different team the Nuggets will play, one that Jokic acknowledged is playing really well since the trade deadline.

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