Outside of a big run in the fourth quarter, the Los Angeles Lakers played very poorly in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. A major problem they had is that they got killed when it came to rebounding. JaVale McGee has mostly been in the starting lineup all year but he hasn’t been playing his best basketball this series.
On the other hand, Dwight Howard has played well off the bench. In an effort to turn the series back around, the Lakers have decided to insert Howard into the starting lineup, per NBA.com’s Mike Trudell.
Howard is one of the best rebounders of all-time but he’s only gotten six rebounds so far in the series. That said, he brings swagger to the team and is a better option to guard Nikola Jokic than McGee is.
Howard Was Almost Ejected in Game 2
Even though he’s 34 now, Howard still plays with a ton of passion. He’s frequently getting into arguments with referees and players on the opposing team. While that passion and swagger can be helpful for a team, it could start to cause problems for Howard. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the big man came dangerously close to getting ejected in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals:
Dwight Howard continued to try to get under the skin of Nikola Jokic, but his antics could be causing him to lose focus at times. Throughout this series, he has antagonized Jokic with juvenile taunts and has gone out of his way to invade the star’s space before play has even resumed.
Five minutes into the second quarter, Howard had just picked up a technical foul for tossing the ball in the air out of frustration after a foul was called on him. And unbeknownst to the viewing public, seconds later, he was nearly tossed from the game.
Jerami Grant, who finished with 26 points, was at the free-throw line midway in the second period, and Howard uttered an obscene remark in the direction of the officials. It was apparently so off-putting that official Marc Davis shouted, “Hey, cut that out now! Are you serious? I’ve heard that twice now. Twice. Cut it out now!”
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Howard Needs to Play Smart
Howard is likely going to be given the task of guarding Jokic for most of the night which will not be an easy task. Howard has won multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards but Jokic’s unique style of play on offense is really hard to guard.
Nobody has figured out how to slow down the Denver big man yet and even Anthony Davis hasn’t been very effective guarding him. Howard has tried to get under his skin to see if that will work but Jokic is obviously tough mentally. The best they can do is to try to slow him down and hope he doesn’t go off for a massive game on offense.