Lakers-Nuggets game 2 takeaways: Davis and Jokic fight classic battle

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Halfway through the third quarter, it looked like Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals was going to be another laugh.

The Los Angeles Lakers, holding a 16-point lead with 8:11 remaining in the period, appeared to emulate their performance in Game 1, containing the Denver Nuggets’ favorite stocks and scoring with relative ease off LeBron’s back. James. (who scored his club’s first 12 points) and transition opportunities.

And then the Nuggets honed their offense, won key minutes against the Lakers’ small ball lineups, and found help in some unexpected places (hello, PJ Dozier!) To make a 24-12 run to close out the quarter and arrange a spectacular, biting finish.

The following are some of the main takeaways from the game, including, yes, the Anthony Davis marquee shot.

Adjustment of mismatches

It was no secret for this series that pick-and-roll Jamal Murray – Nikola Jokic was going to be tough for the Lakers to defend, even with their surplus of (legitimately athletic) big men. And for the first half of it, they did as admirable a job as they could, pushing back the big one (be it Davis, JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard), ready to burst into the arc if Jokic appeared for a potential. . triple, as the guard fought through and over the ball screen to deter Murray from shooting three and channel him into the paint to help.

Davis in particular has shown why he was voted all-defensive first team this year when involved in those actions, freely flipping over Murray if necessary and swallowing him on records or using his otherworldly athleticism to recover. Jokic to challenge shots that would have generally been opened.

Then, in the second half, the Nuggets not only adjusted well by aggressively forcing more switches than they had in the previous 24 minutes, they executed those adjustments by attacking those switches, finding mismatches every time. tower.

Suddenly their offense came to life, Jokic in particular finding himself facing smaller players that he could easily take advantage of.

On top of that, the two Denver stars just started doing what great players do, drilling tough shots against high quality defenders. Murray managed to squeeze past Davis a few times for acrobatic layups, and Jokic hit some tough hooks and reversing shots to the post against tall opponents.

In the end, of course, that wasn’t enough to get them across the finish line, but if they are able to continue exploiting the Lakers in the pick-and-roll in the future, Los Angeles is in. a tougher fight than they’ve had for the entire two games.

Spray paint

Again, it was really a story of two halves.

After the first 24 minutes, the Lakers led the points in the paint battle 24-12. By the time the game was over, the Nuggets ended up beating them 38–34.

It’s not all that surprising that the Nuggets gave up so many points indoors – during the regular season, they had the 10th worst score (64.1) for the percentage of goals defended at the edge of the league. They just don’t have particularly formidable rim protectors, and while their defense was slightly better throughout the playoffs, the Lakers’ athleticism was always going to be problematic.

In a microcosm of these issues, the Lakers found a pet playing backdoor lobs, with a tall man (or even James, who finished the play on Sunday night, for example) appearing to ascend towards the front arc. quickly coming back to baseline and rising for a lob from a guard (often Rajon Rondo) standing at the top.

The Nuggets’ domestic dominance, however, was much more unexpected, as the Lakers are home to several great men who are more defenders. Unlike their opponents, Los Angeles was the sixth best team in terms of percentage of goals defended on the edge (61.7) last season.

But Jokic finding his touch inside, with the cutters taking smart reads whenever doubles appeared, and Murray managing to squeeze and work his way to the pick-and-roll hoop despite a tight defense looming over it. ‘surrounds allowed Denver to erase Los Angeles’ advantage in this category completely.

It looks like there are quite a few things the Nuggets can take away from this game, despite the loss, and be happy with it, and their inner game will be at the top of this list.

Nothing to laugh about

It looked like Jokic was going to be stuck in the mud again throughout the first half, finding it difficult to score with the Lakers doing a good job of keeping him up against a big opponent (Howard was particularly good at putting himself in under Jokic’s Skin) to match his size and strength, and keep him in one blanket, thus staying at home with his teammates and reducing the chances of potential cuts that would allow him to enjoy his otherworldly death. .

In the second half, however, that all changed, with Jokic breaking out as the Nuggets created more opportunities for him via switches, allowing him to face smaller players he could easily see and score against. Once he scored a couple of times in those scenarios, the Lakers’ resolve faltered and they started sending doubles teams that he immediately capitalized on, spraying point passes all over the half court.

Once the fourth quarter arrived he also began to get some extremely tough looks that he had previously missed and that the Lakers could only shrug, including a whopping three points against a Davis who was closing quickly for reduce the lead to a point with 1:04 to play.

If it was Jokic with the ball in his hands for the last shot of the game rather than Davis, the discussion right now might instead be about him (he finished with 30 points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals). He’s as powerful an offensive force as there is in the league today, and if he’s able to dictate the terms of Denver’s offensive possessions, this series could backfire in the blink of an eye.

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Hero ball

As great as Jokic was in this game, Davis seemed to have answers around every turn.

Not only was he exceptional with his individual and team defense (flying around the ground to challenge shooters and change whenever necessary without giving up an advantage), Davis found his offensive pace in the second half after a difficult early start and ended the game by scoring Los Angeles’ last 10 points.

And, oh yeah, he hit a pretty clever thing that beat three of them too.

That triple was only the second time Davis has hit a buzzer-beater in his career, and the first time he’s done so in the playoffs. It was also the first time a Lakers player had hit such a postseason shot since Metta World Peace in 2010.

Davis’s performance (he finished with 31 points, nine rebounds and two blocks) was perhaps made even more thrilling by the fact that the vast majority of his buckets came either against Jokic or in response to him, generating a classic clash between superstar and superstar. He worked Jokic in isolation throughout the game, taking him out of the dribble to make his way to the edge or pulling up for mid-range jumpers and sticking them in his grid.

These are exactly the kind of battles that elevate NBA basketball beyond ordinary limits, crafting something ethereal that will stay in the mind forever. And with at least two games remaining in this series, there’s still plenty of room for more.



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