Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel implied that his team will use centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard more often in its upcoming Western Conference Finals matchup against the Denver Nuggets and All-Star big man Nikola Jokic.
"'Joker' is one of the most unique players in the world, and one of the most unique players ever to play the center position in this league. He can basically hurt you in all ways. He can hurt you at the three-point line, in the pocket, playing the 4-on-3 game in the post, and obviously with his passing...
"It does make this series a little different—a lot different, actually—in terms of how much we'll use our centers. I don't want to get too much into detail, but obviously we're going to be the L.A. Lakers, who we've been all year. We adjusted to a small-ball team last series, but I would expect us to return to form."
Howard averaged 7.8 minutes in the Lakers' second-round series against the Houston Rockets, while McGee averaged 7.5. That was a stark contrast from their opening-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, when Howard averaged 18.9 minutes and McGee averaged 13.4 minutes while starting all five games.
The small-ball Rockets employed the 6'5" P.J. Tucker at center and didn't have anyone 6'8" or taller in their rotation, with Jeff Green being the tallest. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers featured 7-footers Jusuf Nurkic, who averaged 32.2 minutes per game, and Hassan Whiteside, who averaged 21.2 minutes.
Denver often has a true center on the court at all times between Jokic and 6'11" backup Mason Plumlee, so Howard and McGee should spend plenty of time matched up with that duo.
The Lakers won three of their four regular-season games against the Nuggets, including a 124-121 victory on Aug. 10 in a seeding game at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida.
Howard was excellent against Denver, averaging 10.8 points on 75.0 percent shooting and 7.3 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game. McGee was productive as well with averages of 4.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.0 block in 15.3 minutes.
Game 1 will take place on Friday at 9 p.m. ET.
TNT will televise the entire Western Conference Finals, which is a best-of-seven series. The winner will play the Eastern Conference champion, which will either be the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics, in the NBA Finals.