Rui Hachimura played a key role for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. It was when the Lakers decided to match up Hachimura with Nikola Jokic that LA was able to mount a massive comeback to give themselves a chance to steal away Game 1 in Denver's own home court. In the end, however, they fell short as the Nuggets drew first blood in this NBA Playoffs series.
Hachimura has now spoken out about what it's like trying to clamp down on Jokic, and the Lakers forward just had to give Nikola his flowers:
“He's pretty good,” Hachimura said. “He was an MVP candidate too, you know. He's so crafty, he can shoot, he can pass the ball. … We just gotta focus on him tonight. We're gonna see.”
The Lakers are clearly putting a ton of emphasis on their game plan against Jokic. The Nuggets' success will rely heavily on Jokic, and LA is well aware of this fact.
Coach Darvin Ham was praised for his in-game decision to have Hachimura guard Jokic, and Rui was credited for his strong stand against the former back-to-back MVP as well. So much so, that there were calls for the Lakers to give Hachimura the starting nod in Game 2. Coach Ham decided against this notion, though, with the first-year shot-caller opting to re-insert Jarred Vanderbilt in the starting lineup instead. Nevertheless, Rui is still expected to play a key role for LA on Thursday night, particularly against Nikola Jokic.