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Lakers ready for 'monster in the Rocky Mountains' Nikola Jokic

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LOS ANGELES — Lakers coach Darvin Ham barely had time to enjoy his team’s series-clinching victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night before a reporter asked about game planning for Nikola Jokic.

It’ll be a daunting challenge when the Lakers play the top-seeded Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals starting Tuesday in Denver.

“You’re not going to push the fast-forward button on me that fast,” Ham said with a slight grin after the Lakers’ 122-101 victory over the Warriors. “We already know that monster in the Rocky Mountains waiting on us.’’

Jokic, a two-time NBA MVP, is averaging 30.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 9.7 assists during the playoffs. With him leading the way, the Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the playoffs, 4-1, and the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals, 4-2.

“They’re very well coached,” Lakers star LeBron James said, “and obviously we know the dynamic of what Joker brings to the game.”

In the shortened 2019-20 season, the Lakers played the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals and won the series 4-1 before going on to win 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 that series “to figure out how we can best match up and get victories over them.”

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‘An ageless wonder’

LeBron James dunked on Father Time again.

At 38, the Lakers star led his team to a closeout victory with 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting, nine rebounds and nine assists.

“He’s an ageless wonder to be able to do that against one of the best defenses and the defending champs,’’ Rob Pelinka, vice president of basketball operations and general manager for the Lakers, told Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet. “Just the force he played with, the energy. It’s unbelievable to see for a guy in his 20th year.”

But Reaves, the Lakers’ second-year guard, said James is always capable of dazzling – i.e. finishing one assist and one rebound shy of a triple-double Friday – and at risk of disappointing.

“Every time you step on the floor you except him to be great because that’s what he’s done his whole career,’’ he said. “Honestly, he could be great and people will still kill him because he wasn’t who he was in 2013.”


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Lakers ready for 'monster in the Rocky Mountains' Nikola Jokic Reviewed by RP on May 13, 2023 Rating: 5

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