Ohm YoungmisukESPN staff writerMay 17, 2023, 02:37 am ETRead 3 minutes

DENVER — Nikola Jokic says he didn’t have a strategy in mind to fight Anthony Davis.

But it didn’t take long for the Los Angeles Lakers to see Jokic’s blueprint in Game 1 on Tuesday night. The Denver Nuggets’ superstar came off as extremely aggressive as he introduced himself to LeBron James and Davis in the Western Conference finals, but this time the two-time MVP was at the top of his game.

Jokic had his third straight triple-double in the third quarter of this postseason with 34 points, 21 rebounds, 14 rebounds and two blocks to help the Nuggets to a 132-126 win at the Ball Arena.

“It does [look] Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon talked about Jokic taking whatever defense gives him.[But also] It is miraculous at the same time. It’s ridiculous.”

Jokic was a force, especially on the glass, where he made six offensive attempts in the first quarter alone. The Lakers had a team-high six field goal attempts in the quarter. At halftime, Jokic led the entire Lakers team 16-13.

Offensively, he looked as aggressive as ever, putting the ball on the floor and driving hard and fast against Davis and other Lakers defenders. In fact, he posted up Davis, spun left and drove baseline for a dunk on the Lakers big man.

“I thought he was looking up and getting to the basket when I felt there was one-on-one coverage. [Jokic used] He has athleticism down to finish in traffic. It was great to see,” Denver coach Michael Malone said.

“He’s going to continue to do that at a high level. But his rebounding early, I think there’s a point in this game where we’re 22-3. It’s going to be on the glass.”

By the end of the third quarter, Jokic had 31 points, 19 rebounds and 12 assists to help Denver lead by 21 points. He averaged 34.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 10.3 assists while shooting 59.4% from the field against the Phoenix Suns, giving the Lakers a measure of how dominant he was in the second round.

Nuggets guard and former Laker Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said when asked about the difference between Jokic and James’ versatile triple-double games, “The difference is, ‘I feel like Bron can be taller than Jokic.'” “That’s the only difference I see. I like playing with Jokic, a willing passer, a dominant big man down low. Seeing him do what he does gets everybody going.”

Even Jokic hit a 28-foot step-back 3-pointer in front of Davis in the third quarter that drew a smile from Davis and a shrug from the Nuggets big man.

“Oh, sometimes luck is on our side,” Jokic said. “It’s a really crazy shot.” It’s not something I’m working on, but I’m glad it’s coming in.”

Jokic made 12 of his first 15 shots, but the team was hot. Denver shot 56% from the field and 12-of-24 from 3 through the first three quarters.

However, the Lakers bounced back. Coach Darwin Hamm put Rui Hachimura over Jokic and allowed Davis to roll around in the defensive paint instead of shouldering Jokic’s entire workload. After trailing by 14 with 6:33 left, the Lakers cut the deficit to three in the final 2:18.

But Jokic Caldwell-Pope (21 points) went for a driving toe roll with 1:53 left. When the Lakers came back within three, Jamal Murray (31 points) made a steal and Jokic hit four free throws to finish the game.

Davis battled Jokic, finishing with 40 points and 10 rebounds. And James just missed a triple-double of his own with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists.

According to a study by ESPN Stats and Information, Jokic is the first player in NBA postseason history to shoot 70% and record multiple 30-point triple-doubles. And he’s done it in each of his two games now.

What Jokic could have done better in Game 2 is how the Lakers bounced back in Game 1.

“After winning the Western Conference finals, I’d rather clean things up than lose,” Malone said. “So we will take it, but we have a lot of work to do.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *