Nikola Jokic Vs Lakers
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, right, works the ball inside as Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley, left, and center Dwight Howard defend in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday Jan. 15, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Los Angeles Lakers were worried about the Nikola Jokic factor before the series against the top-seed Nuggets even started. It is difficult to stop the force of the two-time MVP winner. Jokic has been in fine form for the last three seasons. He has won back-to-back MVPs and came in a close second this year behind Joel Embiid. Apparently, the Lakers are aware of the complete package that Nikola Jokic is. And the Joker proved his caliber yet again last night as he scored a triple-double in Game 1 of the conference finals to beat the Lakers.

In the first game of the Western Conference finals, Anthony Davis could do nothing but look back at the Joker and give a smile of appreciation. The Lakers did manage to come back to cover up a significant deficit. However, they still lost to the Nuggets by 132-126. For the majority of the game, the Lakers seemed helpless to defend the Joker. But in the fourth quarter, they were able to slow him down with the help of their new joinee. Rui Hachimura played an important part in defending the magnificent Jokic. And that is why the Purple and the Gold squad feels that Hachimura is the key to getting past the Nuggets and reaching this year’s finals.


Rui Hachimura Raises Hope After Guarding Nikola Jokic

Lakers Vs Nuggets Nikola Jokic Vs Rui Hachimura
Lakers Vs Nuggets Nikola Jokic Rui Hachimura Source: Bleacher Report

Unfortunately, the Lakers could not prevent the defeat in their first game against the Nuggets in the Conference finals. There was a phase in the game during the third quarter when Lakers fans were afraid of their team suffering a massive blowout. The rivals were ahead with 20 points. But the change happened when Rui Hachimura started guarding Nikola Jokic, and Anthony Davis got a chance to take care of the team’s offense. Furthermore, Jamal Murray, in the last quarter, could not get much help from Nikola Jokic because the Lakers’ Japanese player guarding him so well. As soon as Rui started getting the better out of Jokic late in the fourth quarter, the Serbian started taking chances on harder shots.

He had to deal with Anthony Davis as well, who was playing the role of the assistant in the defense in the paint. After losing the game, Hachimura revealed that “It was our plan that I would guard Jokic. And, in the fourth quarter, we did a good job of slowing him down.” So now, Lakers Coach Darvin Ham might work on this strategy in the following games of the series as well. Since the Lakers know how important it is to slow the Joker down. Most importantly, he can take the game away from any opposition, not just scoring but also passing and grabbing rebounds. The NBA community is in awe of the Serbian’s great basketball IQ. Later in the game, the Lakers came as close as only three points behind at a point. But they eventually stayed behind when the last buzzer went off.

Can Lakers Stop The Joker?

Lakers VS Nuggets Joker Vs AD
Lakers Vs Nuggets Nikola Jokic Anthony Davis Source: Sky Sports

Rui Hachimura’s defense against the great Serb gave the fans and the management hope for the next games. From the next game till the series gets over, Hachimura needs to contain Nikola Jokic. Only then will the Lakers be able to beat the top-seed Nuggets in the conference finals.

Jokic has been absolutely spectacular as he scored 34 points, 14 assists, and 21 rebounds last night. But if Hachimura can do what he did, Jokic and the Nuggets will be in trouble. Now the teams are getting ready for Game 2. So, lets see who will have the edge over the other.