Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic would welcome first-round playoff series vs. Lakers: “Why not?”

If the Nuggets draw the Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Nikola Jokic said he would welcome it. Embrace it even.

Even in the aftermath of Monday’s streak-snapping loss to the Lakers, Jokic wasn’t dissuaded at the prospect of facing the reigning champs in a rematch of last year’s conference finals.

“If it happens, it happens,” Jokic said. “Why not? If we want to win it, we need to play with the best. We are not going to try to fix anything.”

Monday’s 93-89 loss tightened the margin between the No. 3 Nuggets and No. 4 Clippers and momentarily nudged the Lakers into the No. 5 seed. All three teams have just seven games remaining. Only a game separates the Lakers and the No. 7 Trail Blazers, who are currently slotted for the play-in tournament.

Jokic had a game-high 32 points but on just 12-of-28 shooting to pair with nine rebounds and five assists. Rather than blame a crucial offensive foul call against Facundo Campazzo that potentially cost the Nuggets three points amid Denver’s comeback, Jokic took the blame for the loss. The Nuggets fell to 1-2 on the season against the Lakers.

“I think the main problem, we didn’t shoot well,” he said. “Me first.”

The Lakers, even without a healthy LeBron James, proved they’re among the teams best-equipped to handle Jokic in a playoff series. New acquisition Andre Drummond started the game on Jokic (with little success), but the Lakers soon pivoted to former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, whose role had diminished since the Drummond addition.

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“I think we all forget who Marc Gasol is,” Jokic said of the one-time NBA champion.

On several possessions, the Lakers tried the more physical option in forward Markieff Morris then showed a few possessions with Anthony Davis in the mix. The defensive potpourri worked in that Jokic wasn’t nearly as efficient as he’s been all year and played through foul trouble for most of the second half.

Down 14 points with 6:09 remaining, Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. carried the Nuggets to the verge of a gripping comeback. The Nuggets cut the margin to just two points, twice, over the final 1:37 of regulation.

“We never quit,” Jokic said. “… We’re gonna try. We can fight. That’s something that nobody can take from us. I’m really proud of the guys.”

To challenge or not to challenge? Nuggets coach Michael Malone hadn’t seen the replay of Campazzo’s offensive foul on Anthony Davis by the time he met with media late Monday night. He said he considered challenging the call, but his assistants, who have to make a snap judgment after watching instant replay on an iPad, didn’t feel the call would get changed.

“Definitely considered it, but talked to our coaches behind the bench, and they said what the officials said, that Facu kind of took him out,” Malone said. “… Yes, was definitely considering challenging it, but that’s where I trust my coaches who are watching the replay right behind the bench to give me the …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

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