Lakers: AD vs Jokic highlights the Western Conference Finals

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

After the Lakers destroyed the Rockets’ small-ball experiment, Anthony Davis vs Nikola Jokic is the matchup of the playoffs so far.

After a 10 year absence, the Los Angeles Lakers are back in the Western Conference Finals and they face a team with an 11-year absence themselves in that round: the Denver Nuggets. After a shocking (and hilarious) upset of the supposed title favorite Los Angeles Clippers, the Nuggets are here for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony era.

Fueled by a potent attack led by Jokic and breakout star Jamal Murray, the Nuggets present a much different challenge for the Lakers than what they faced in the previous round.

In Game 1, Davis had the upper hand after dominating the Nuggets to the tune of 37 points and 10 rebounds while leading his team to a 126-114 victory on Friday night. Jokic, on the other hand, had himself a solid game finishing with 21 points and 6 rebounds. Since these are two of the best big men in the game, let’s take a look into how the series as a whole might look between these two.

This series features a battle between two of the most skilled big men in the league and it is no surprise that their matchup is one of the key factors that will determine the outcome of the series. Both players have very different styles of play. Jokic relies more on his finesse skills like his excellent passing which allows him to make plays like this one:

Davis on the other hand prides himself on being an elite finisher at the rim and a knockdown mid-range shooter.

Offensively, one might say that The Joker is more well rounded than The Brow. However, it is on the defensive end where AD can give Jokic the work. Anthony Davis is one of the premier defensive players in the league which was validated this week after being named to the All-defensive first team.

During the playoffs, Davis is allowing his opponents to shoot just 44.4% on 13.1 attempts per game. His length, awareness, and foot speed allow him to pester his opponents from anywhere on the court. This leads to highlight defensive plays like this.

Notice how Davis waited for the ballhandler to commit to his shot before going up for the block. That is incredible discipline from one of the best defensive players in the league. Between 5-9 feet from the basket, Anthony Davis’ opponents shoot 28% on 5.1 attempts per game which further illustrates his elite defensive abilities.

Let’s move on to the matchup. Davis and Jokic will inevitably guard each other for most of the series. This presents an advantage for the Lakers. Why? Let’s look at the two most likely scenarios. If the Nuggets decide to put Jokic on Davis then AD will drive past him every time due to Davis’ quick feet and Jokic’s slow-footed nature.

Now let’s say that the Nuggets decide to put Paul Millsap on The Brow. In this case, Anthony Davis, who comes in at 6’10, has a height advantage over Millsap, who comes in at 6’7. Millsap’s wingspan is not long enough to consistently bother Davis on jump shots or shots near the rim where Davis is an elite shooter.

It would benefit the Lakers more to look for pick and roll plays from Davis. With Davis as the roll man, he has generated 1.55 points per possession which ranks in the 95th percentile. The Lakers have been successful running that play as a team as well, ranking in the 80th percentile (second only to the Miami Heat among the four remaining teams).

Next. 5 lessons from Game 1 win over Denver. dark

This series marks another step in the path towards a 17th championship. I have the Lakers winning in 6 games as this Nuggets team has been battle-tested and could prove to be a tough out.  The Nuggets will adjust for Game 2, we will how the Lakers counter those adjustments. Go LakeShow!