Nikola Jokic says he doesn’t even remember when the Nuggets faced off against the Lakers in the 2020 bubble in the Western Conference Finals.
Lucky for him, because LA went on to win the championship and now its only two remaining players from that title are LeBron and Anthony Davis.
Jokic is expecting a challenging series from the new-look team ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1.
“We didn’t play with this kind of Lakers [team],” Jokic said. “So this is going to be basically a new team for us. Probably everything is new, everything is different.
“They’re playing amazing in these playoffs. Since [the trade] deadline, they’re playing really well.”
Matching up against Lakers superstar Anthony Davis will be Jokic’s biggest challenge in these playoffs yet and it will be an unmissable battle of the bigs.
“AD is a guard in a 7-foot-2 body,” Denver forward Aaron Gordon said of Davis. “He is able to handle the ball really well, able to draw fouls, so you have to be conscientious with your hands. He can shoot that middy, fadeaway over both shoulders, just his skill package while being that big.”
Jokic has been building after he recorded three triple-doubles in his last four games against Phoenix, while averaging 34.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 10.3 assists on 59.4 percent FG shooting.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone believes that Jokic has changed since the bubble year: “He’s married, he’s a father, he’s matured.”
Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Vlatko Cancar are the remaining players from the 2020 Denver team, which has bolstered its ranks with veterans including Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green.
“We are more experienced,” Jokic said. “We have been there before. We are maybe a little bit more, not focused, [but playing in] different environments [than the bubble]. So I think we are just experienced, playing a little bit more together.”
Game 1 of the Lakers-Nuggets Western Conference Finals series will take place on Tuesday, May 16 at 5:30PM PDT, on Jokic’s home court.