Mike Malone scoffs at idea of Lakers putting Rui Hachimura on Nikola Jokic

Zach Stevens
3 Min Read

The highly anticipated Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets began on Tuesday, and it began with the Lakers falling behind by a wide margin early.

While several players went off for Denver, no one harmed the Lakers as much as Nikola Jokic, who registered a monster triple-double.

But in the fourth quarter, L.A. apparently found a way to contain Jokic by putting Rui Hachimura on him. But Denver head coach Michael Malone downplayed the strategy, even though it was effective.

“Much is being made of them putting Rui Hachimura on Nikola Jokic, like we’ve never seen that before,” Malone scoffed, noting that the strategy made for “an interesting storyline” because it kept D’Angelo Russell, who’s been playing really well, on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.

Jokic had 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists for the game, but with Hachimura shadowing him in the fourth quarter, he didn’t make a single basket and scored a mere three points. That slowdown in Jokic’s production allowed Los Angeles to come to within three points in the closing moments and lose by just six points.

Anthony Davis, who guarded the two-time MVP for most of the first three quarters, had 40 points and made a decent effort defensively, but it simply wasn’t enough.

The Lakers traded for Hachimura in late January, giving up guard Kendrick Nunn, who had been played sparingly, and multiple second-round draft picks to the Washington Wizards. They had seriously lacked frontcourt depth before the trade, and the 6-foot-8 forward has greatly helped in that department.

He has given them a potent scoring threat off the bench, and although he has been up and down in terms of his production, he has had some big games in the playoffs. One of those big games was Game 1 on Tuesday when he scored 17 points on a sizzling shooting percentage.

LeBron James added 26 points and was one assist shy of a triple-double. Over the last couple of games, he has been attacking the basket more often, which has made it seem that the injured tendon in his right foot, which forced him to miss a month late in the regular season, is feeling better.

A Lakers win in Game 2 would tie the series and give them the home-court advantage plus the momentum heading into Game 3 back in Los Angeles.

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Zach has always had a profound love and respect for the Lakers that has inspired him to write about the franchise. He has a great deal of admiration for LeBron James, and his overall knowledge about the NBA has made him a solid addition to the Lakers Daily staff.