Western Conference Finals Game 1. The three takeaways leading into game two.
- Nikola Jokic’s biggest test yet on both sides of the floor; Anthony Davis
Coming into this series Nikola Jokic’s has been an absolute tear on offense posting 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists a night shooting above 51% from the field and 44% from the 3-point line. He did have the luxury of going up against Rudy Gobert and Ivica Zubac the previous two rounds but this next matchup will be quite the test for the two-time All-Star from Serbia. Rudy Gobert is an elite rim protector but he’s no Anthony Davis we can all agree on the defensive end. Davis is an athletic specimen at the Power Forward and Center position. Davis can hold his own on guards along the perimeter as seen vs Russell Westbrook in the Semi-Finals vs the Rockets. Davis can also shut down the best of them in the paint. Jokic’s offense game relies more so on technique, skill, and IQ with pass fakes, pump fakes, dribble hand offs, etc. Jokic is quite the inside outside scorer but he’s going to have to really be aggressive on the offensive end if the Nuggets want to make this a series. Jokic will also have to deal with Anthony Davis’ plethora of skill on offense as well. Davis poured in 37 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists last night in Game 1. Probably the most dangerous big man in the league off the dribble Davis has no problem putting the ball on the ground, posting up, working in the pick and roll game, spotting up from mid-range/3 point line. Davis playoff career averages of 29.7 points and 11.8 boards a night on 54% shooting from the field in addition to his elite defensive versatility is enough to state that he can be the best player on the floor at both ends on any given night.
2. Older back court of Lakers must contain Jamal Murray
Since 2001 there has been only one player to score 40+ points in three straight playoff games; Jamal Murray. Murray joined an exclusive club in the first round vs the Jazz and took this momentum into the Semi-Finals vs the Clippers. Many believed that three of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley would be more than enough to get under Murray’s skin and at times it was proved. The former Kentucky guard averaged 22.6 points, 4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists on 44% from the field, 44% from deep, and 90% from the charity stripe. Definitely not the stats and efficiency you expected from vs the highly touted Clippers. In last night’s game 1 loss to the Lakers Murray scored 21 points with three makes from downtown but only took twelve shots in total, hitting seven of them. If the Nuggets want to really win this series and make it tough on the Lakers they need to make the Lakers guards work and pull their big men out of the paint where they await for them. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, Alex Caruso, and Rajon Rondo are all competitive caliber defenders but Murray should give them lots of trouble in the pick and roll and running around off ball screens on the perimeter. Both are Murrays’ bread and butter on offense and a vital component to the Nuggets’ offense. Murray must be taking 15-20 shots a night minimum if the Nuggets want a shot.
3. MPJ must be the Nuggets consistent third wheel on offense
Arguably the most skilled offensive scorer on the Nuggets Michael Porter Jr is only 22 years old but his game is advanced beyond his years. Porter can take you off the dribble, post you up, shoot over either shoulder, and has a quality midrange/three-point shot. Recently MPJ was quoted regarding Nuggets struggles down 3-1 to the Clippers saying “I think if I am going to be out there on the floor playing a lot of minutes, I think I should voice that,” Porter said. “I will probably talk to the coaches and tell them what I see being out there on the floor, just letting them know, look, they know what we are doing. We have to swing the ball. We have a lot of players that can play basketball and score, so we have to get some more guys involved.” Michael Porter Jr. was very outspoken and caught some backlash after the Game 4 post game presser but to say the least he did have a point. In order for the Nuggets to really apply pressure to the Lakers they need that third scoring option to rise. Michael Porter Jr’s offensive versatility and rebounding ability is key for the Nuggets. Porter Jr. should get a consistent 10-15 shot attempts and yes he’s still an early bloomer and can be that spark because he can create his own offense form multiple spots from the floor.
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