Lakers News: Rui Hachimura Enjoying Playing ‘Physical’ With Nikola Jokic & Nuggets
(Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

The Los Angeles Lakers have found themselves in a difficult position down three games to none to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, although there still have been some positives in the series with the play of Rui Hachimura being among them.

Hachimura’s level of play has greatly increased all postseason, but that is especially the case in this series against the Nuggets.

In the first three games, Hachimura has averaged 17 points and 2.7 rebounds while shooting an impressive 63.6% from the field and 50% from 3-point range. More importantly than that though, Hachimura has stepped up on the defensive end of the floor guarding two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.

Hachimura isn’t really known for his defense, but after Jokic torched the Lakers in the first three quarters in Game 1, Darvin Ham gave the 25-year-old a chance to slow him down.

While Jokic is obviously still great, Hachimura has done a nice job using his size and strength to slow down the big man since the fourth quarter of Game 1. After the Game 3 loss, he discussed taking that challenge and using his physicality against Jokic.

“It’s actually not bad. I like being physical. It’s just nothing, you know. For me, it’s not that crazy.

“But as a team, I think they are just — they are big. They are very physical. They are fast. So you know, just those are things hard on us right now. We have just got to try and win the next game, yeah.”

Even without Jokic carrying the load offensively in Games 2 and 3, the Nuggets were still able to earn victories thanks to their other guys stepping up. Hachimura gave credit to the Nuggets, believing their size has created issues for L.A.

“Like I’ve been saying, they are just bigger than us. You know, they can just shoot over us. We are smaller than them, so they can just shoot over us. And of course Jokic, he’s a good passer. He’s just gets a lot of attention when he has the ball. So we just sometimes watch him and get back out or the other side of the court is wide open.

“Yeah, they are a good team, so you’ve got to give them credit, yeah.”

Hachimura should start for Lakers in Game 4

Hachimura has come off the bench all postseason for the Lakers, but it has become abundantly clear in this series that they are better with him on the floor.

Now that there is no margin for error down 3-0, Darvin Ham should seriously consider giving Hachimura the start over Jarred Vanderbilt in Game 4 to get off to a good start.

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