Nuggets’ Michael Malone: Everybody’s Saying Lakers Have Won Series Because Of Rui Hachimura’s Defense On Nikola Jokic
Michael Malone, Nuggets, Lakers
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As the Los Angeles Lakers get ready for Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday night, Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone seems to still be focused on what happened in Game 1.

The Nuggets were able to win and protect their home court behind a stellar performance from Nikola Jokic, jumping out to a hot start and leading by as many as 20.

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham changed up his defense in the fourth quarter, switching Anthony Davis off Jokic and onto Aaron Gordon so he can roam, protect the paint and crash the glass. Rui Hachimura was put on Jokic and did his best to slow down the two-time MVP, and it led to a late run by the Lakers to get it all the way back within three.

The Nuggets were able to hold on for the win, but many Lakers backers came away feeling confident after the late run given how poorly L.A. played in the first two and a half quarters. What Malone has been hearing is past confidence though, and ahead of Game 2, he expressed what he’s been hearing about the series.

“Once again, we’ve seen this before and Nikola’s gonna figure it out, we’re gonna figure it out. This is the first time I’ve ever been in a series up 1-0 and the series is over in everybody’s eyes because they put Rui Hachimura on Nikola Jokic for six possessions. So let’s see how it plays out tonight.”

It seems that Malone is trying to play up the underdog angle for his team, which could very well work even though they’re the No. 1 seed that’s favored in the series and also favored at home in Game 2.

While there are certainly talking heads and fans that feel confident in the Lakers’ chances though, there haven’t been many that have gone out on a limb saying the series is over because of what the job Hachimura did on Jokic.

When speaking after Game 1, Ham explained what he liked about that look, although also added that it is just one of many options that they have yet to unveil.

Hachimura potentially entering starting lineup for Game 2

Reports indicate that Ham is potentially moving Hachimura into the starting lineup for Game 2, so he may get the first crack at Jokic with Davis again on Gordon.

Malone said the Nuggets will be ready for that look in Game 2, which should make for another great coaching chess match in these playoffs.

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