The Western Conference Finals will get started on Tuesday night in Denver, as the top-seeded Nuggets play host to the 7-seeded Lakers for the right to play for an NBA championship.
On Monday, the two teams met with the media for the first time since the matchup was finalized with the Lakers beating the Warriors in six games, and naturally there was lots of talk about how each team would try and approach the opposing stars. For L.A., they will have to figure out what to do with Nikola Jokic, who has been dominant this postseason, averaging 30.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 9.7 assists per game through the first two rounds.
Part of what makes Jokic such a tough cover is he doesn’t have real weaknesses on the offensive end, as he is not only capable as a prolific scorer, but he’s also one of the best passers in the league, picking apart double teams by feeding open teammates. To this point, no one has come up with a functional game plan to slow down the two-time MVP, but Darvin Ham has been thinking outside the box and has finally cracked the code.
On his strategy against Nikola Jokic, Darvin Ham cracks, “Try to catch him out of his house and kidnap him.”
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) May 15, 2023
Unfortunately, this is a plan that would be illegal, but at least he’s considering all the options available to him (and maybe watched Celtic Pride on the plane ride to Denver).
The reality of facing Jokic and the Nuggets is that there are no scheme things you can do to take him away, you just have to execute as best you can on everyone else, make life as difficult as possible for the big man, and hope to end up on the right side of shooting variance from their role guys. However, what the Lakers can do is try to and make the big man work as much as possible on defense in hopes that, maybe, you can wear him down some.
Jokic, despite his appearance, doesn’t wear down easily, but if he’s tasked with dealing with Anthony Davis and the Lakers are willing to operate through AD consistently, they can at least test that endurance on both ends (and potentially put him in foul trouble). That still might not work, but Davis presents the biggest offensive threat inside the Nuggets have faced to this point and will represent Jokic’s strongest test yet.