Dwight Howard implies only he can stop Nikola Jokic after Lakers Game 1 loss to Nuggets

Ryan Aston
3 Min Read

Despite a valiant second-half effort from Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday, Darvin Ham’s team ultimately came up short in its attempt to steal home-court advantage away from the top-seeded Denver Nuggets, falling 132-126 at Ball Arena. As has been the case throughout the campaign, Nikola Jokic was simply too much for Denver’s opponent to handle.

However, one former Laker believes that he would be equal to the task of shutting Jokic down if he had an opportunity to show as much. Namely, Dwight Howard, who was a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and two-time blocks champion during his heyday.

Amid his old club’s series-opening loss — which saw Jokic score 34 points on 12-of-17 shooting while adding 21 rebounds and 14 assists to complete the triple-double — Howard implied that only he could stop Jokic.

To his credit, Howard did have a measurable effect defensively when the Lakers squared off with the Nuggets during the 2020 Western Conference Finals in the bubble. In his 101 minutes on the court during that series — which the Lakers won in five games — Los Angeles conceded just 100.0 points per 100 possessions, as tracked by NBA.com. That number gave him the top defensive rating teamwide in the matchup.

Meanwhile, Jokic’s averages of 21.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per contest in that series represented a sizable downward step from what he had been able to accomplish during the opening two rounds (versus the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively).

Those numbers notwithstanding, three years have passed since the Lakers’ 2020 title run, Howard is 37 years old as of this writing and he just spent the 2022-23 campaign playing in Taiwan after having made a brief return to Los Angeles for the 2021-22 season. So, one can probably take his assessment of a battle against Jokic with many grains of salt.

In 20 games with the Taoyuan Leopards this season, Howard put up 23.2 points, 16.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.2 blocks per contest.

Although they won’t have the benefit of Howard’s purported lockdown abilities, the Lakers will have another opportunity to show they can at least slow Jokic down during Game 2 against the Nuggets on Thursday.

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Ryan hails from Salt Lake City and has covered the Association for longer than he cares to admit, in addition to his work in the entertainment space. Past bylines include Heavy Sports, FanSided, Bleacher Report and Screen Rant.