Los Angeles Lakers: Denver’s 4 adjustments for Game 2

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
4 of 5
(Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers /

Adjustment #3: use the Murray-Jokic pick-and-roll more often

Denver has learned the hard way the two Los Angeles teams are diametrically opposed to one another, stylistically and otherwise. The Lakers appeal to old-school sensibilities on defense. The Clippers are the smallish hyper-modern switchable defense built for today.

Attacking them the same way is not going to work. Denver has to realize their offense is going to have to look different to be able to keep up with the Lakers.

Against the Clippers, Denver had the clear size advantage. Nikola Jokic was always going to dominate any Clipper inside. The mismatches were comical.

Pandemic P and Ka-Why-Did-I-Leave-Toronto Leonard stood no chance defending Jokic in the post. Montrezl Harrell, who tried his best, stood no chance inside. Ivica Zubac turned out to not be the better European center.

The Lakers are much bigger. Jokic was getting visibly frustrated trying to back down Dwight Howard. As he did (at times) going up against Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz. They have to run an offense similar to what they did against Utah. Give Jamal Murray the ball and let Jokic or backup center Mason Plumlee set countless ball-screens to free him up.

If the Lakers have one weakness, it is their on-ball defense against opposing point guards. They have done a masterful job addressing their top weakness in the first two rounds. Damian Lillard and James Harden entered the series red-hot. They exited the series in five games, neither having a red-hot series.

Lillard and Harden have legitimate excuses. Lillard was never the same after he dislocated one of his non-shooting fingers in Game 2. Harden was just double-teamed. Russell Westbrook, Harden’s hand-picked wingman, shot them out of the series.

Murray, as far as I know, is not injured. Murray is at his best attacking off high pick-and-rolls facing drop coverage, as shown below.

Lakers’ defenders will have to fight over the screen to get to Murray in time. Caruso got pancaked by backup center Mason Plumlee. Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee, and Anthony Davis still have to drop back. If they switch, Murray will go for 50. If they hedge or trap, they risk leaving Jokic open in a 4 on 3 scenario.

The pick-and-pop with Jokic or Bol Bol is a real threat Denver has yet to explore in this series. Jokic and Bol can make the Lakers pay for dropping back, which would be a far more expensive payment than either Paul Millsap or Jerami Grant taking the same shot.

Be ready for a lot of high pick-and-rolls involving Murray tonight.