3) Make AD’s life tougher on the catch
Re-watching the game from last night, one thing becomes clear: Anthony Davis had it too easy.
Davis was 14-for-23 overall and went 11-for-19 with Jokic as the primary defender, but it could have been even worse. So many of Davis’ looks started with a clean catch near the free throw line. Jokic was playing deep drop on the pick-and-roll and seemed more concerned with what LeBron James and the Lakers’ guards were about to do than with Davis catching it in space. That turned out to be a mistake.
Davis was frequently able to receive the ball and take several dribbles toward the hoop before Jokic finally met up with him. Given the athleticism advantage Davis has, if he gets near the rim, he’ll be able to shoot over and around Jokic with ease.
I want to see the Nuggets be more aggressive in crowding AD on the catch, even if it’s just a quick dig from a guard on the weakside. Davis is a fine passer, but he’s not Draymond Green; there is time for smart defenders like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown to tag Davis and bounce back to their man while Jokic lumbers up a bit higher.
Jokic needs to be better positioned to bump Davis before he gets to the restricted area, too. Make Davis work for strong positioning. If that results in an extra layup or two from Dennis Schroder or Austin Reaves, so be it. But the Nuggets nearly lost the game last night despite scoring 132 points, and I’d rather let the supporting cast have to make difficult contested layups than let AD start a possession ten feet from the hoop with no Nugget in sight.
Denver is in a fantastic position. They built up a big enough early cushion to survive when the Lakers threw out their best counterpunch, and they have plenty of time to concoct new stratagems. Implementing these three changes would be a healthy start.