LOS ANGELES — Lakers coach Darwin Hamm didn’t have time to enjoy his team’s series victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night before a reporter asked Nikola Jokic about his game planning.
It will be a tough challenge when the Lakers play the top-seeded Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals starting Tuesday in Denver.
Hamm said with a small smile after the Lakers’ 122-101 win over the Warriors. .”
Jokic, a two-time NBA MVP, averaged 30.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 9.7 assists during the playoffs. With him leading the way, they defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 4–1 in the first round of the playoffs and the Phoenix Suns 4–2 in the Western Conference Semifinals.
“They’re very well coached,” Lakers star LeBron James said, “and we know what Joker brings to the game.”
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In the abbreviated 2019–20 season, the Lakers played the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals and won the series 4–1 before winning the NBA title.
But Lakers big man Anthony Davis noted that former center Dwight Howard played a key role in disrupting Jokic. Now, Davis said, he and James plan to watch film of the series “to figure out how we can match up better and get wins against them.”
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‘The miracle of aging’
LeBron James is back in Father Time.
At 38, the Lakers star finished with 30 points on 10-for-14 shooting, nine rebounds and nine assists to lead his team to a close victory.
“It’s an aging miracle that he can do that against the best defense and the defending champs,” Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Belinka told Spectrum Sportsnet’s Mike Bresnahan. “The power, the energy he played with. It’s incredible to see a guy at 20 years oldTh year.”
But Reaves, the Lakers’ second-year guard, said James always has the ability to dazzle — that is, finish one assist and one rebound shy of a triple-double — and risk disappointment.
“Every time you step on the floor you’re better than him because that’s what he’s done his whole career,” he said. “Honestly, he could be great and people will still kill him for not having him in 2013.”