In the third and final matchup of the 2018-19 NBA season, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers take on Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.
As the Nuggets are trying to secure homecourt advantage, the Lakers are trying to win the majority of their remaining games in hopes of just making the playoffs.
With the Lakers on the brink of missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, Jokic is a matchup problem for them.
As Jokic averaged 19.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 7.5 assists in just 27.5 minutes in the first two meetings, James had high praise for the 24-year-old.
“Obviously, the head of the snake is Jokic and his ability to keep everybody involved. More importantly, they have so many other guys that can go off. It’s a well-balanced team,” Jame said following Wednesday’s shootaround.
“Obviously one of the best-coached teams that we have in our league. They’ve been pretty consistent all year. It’ll be a tough challenge for us, but we’re all looking forward to it.”
Lakers head coach Luke Walton reiterated earlier comments about Jokic and how teams have to pick their poison with the first-time All-Star player.
“He makes it challenging, because he’s always looking to play-make, but he can also shoot the ball. Part of what you’ve got to decide is do you pressure him? And then they have all those lanes for cutting. You can sit back and let him shoot, but now there’s no pressure and he’s a quarterback without getting any pressure on him. He makes it challenging,” Walton explained.
“He’s gotten a lot better in the post, too. They’re starting to post him more, where he’s starting to bang some bodies down there and really has a nice touch around the rim.”
Although the Lakers have been extremely thin at center following the Ivica Zubac trade, Walton believes JaVale McGee is capable of guarding Jokic.
“There’s enough bigs in today’s game that play that way, so it is a little bit of an adjustment, but JaVale’s guarded people like that before,” Walton said.
Throughout the season, the Lakers have had difficulties with centers who can stretch the floor. As Jokic is perhaps the best passing center in the league right now, it will be interesting to see if they make him more of a shooter after their 117-85 loss last time.
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