Ex-Lakers Big Man Petitions for Return as Jokic-Stopper

Nikola Jokic

Getty Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets.

Dwight Howard believes there’s only one man who can help the Los Angeles Lakers slow down Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic.

His answer: Dwight Howard.

Jokic put up a masterpiece in Game 1, scoring 34 points in 42 minutes, adding 21 rebounds and 14 assists. Howard believes he could be the difference maker if he was on the court.

“Only one person can stop the joker and I ain’t talkin bout Batman,” Howard tweeted on May 16.

The tweet from Howard drew quite the reaction, accumulating 33.2 likes and some funny comments.

“Bro really saying he can stop Jokic but he in Taiwan trying to recruit players,” one commenter wrote.

Others agreed with Howard’s assessment.

“I think if you were playing tonight on the Lakers, you would’ve made an impact on the Joker,” another fan wrote.

Dwight Howard Embraced Challenge of Guard Nikola Jokic With Lakers

Howard spent the last season playing in Taiwan but was on the Lakers the last time they saw the Nuggets in the postseason back in 2020. He played a significant role in the Western Conference Finals against the Nuggets, which the Lakers won in five games. Howard provided a physical presence on Jokic, starting a pair of games and allowing Anthony Davis to roam and provide help elsewhere.

Howard — a three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner — took the assignment to heart and even talked a bit of trash.

“He’s an awesome player and I’ve loved watching his growth from when he came into the league until now. For me, as soon as I step on the court, I want to let him know that I’m there,” Howard said in 2020. “Since we’re staying at the same hotel, I might meet him right outside his room and let him know that for the rest of the series, I’m gonna be right there, locked on to you.”

Lakers Changing Up Strategy to Guard Nikola Jokic

Even if he could be a potential difference-maker, Howard isn’t soaring in to be the savior. The Lakers have to work with what they’ve got, which luckily, is still quite a bit. After Jokic exploded for a double-double in the first half of Game 1, the Lakers shifted Rui Hachimura onto the two-time MVP. It was effective but the Nuggets were not impressed.

“Much [is being] made of them putting Rui Hachimura on Nikola Jokic,” Denver head coach Michael Malone said on May 17. “Like we have never seen that before.”

A lot of what the Lakers plan to do will involve Davis, who is probably the best defensive player left in the postseason. Davis didn’t show his hand while talking about the potential challenge but understands there will be a lot for him to focus on at the defensive end of the court.

“That’s why they pay me the big bucks,” Davis said. “I got to figure it out. And I got to help everybody. That’s my job on this team, to help everyone defensively, protect guys.”

For the Lakers, the key will be keeping Jokic off-balance, using multiple looks so he can’t get comfortable and take over the game.

“We’ve said since Day 1: He’s not a guy that one guy is going to be able to neutralize,” Ham said. “It’s going to take multiple bodies. It’s going to take guys in different areas on the floor to support whoever is in front of Jokic. So, yeah, we’re definitely going to mix up the matchups some and throw different pitches at him in terms of coverages and see where we land.”

The Nuggets are a 5.5-point favorite for Game 2 in Denver.

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