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Tristan Thompson Gave A Firsthand Breakdown Of Trying To Guard Nikola Jokic

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Tristan Thompson, the former Cleveland Cavaliers center, is now an analyst with ESPN after signing with the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of the regular season. Thompson, who played a few minutes against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, was back at his day job with ESPN on Wednesday, where he offered some firsthand advice to the Miami Heat on how to approach defending the two-time MVP, Nikola Jokic.

Thompson explained that the most important thing is to do your work early before Jokic gets the ball to keep him off his spots, because when he’s in position he’s mostly unstoppable. It’s a good breakdown and is the value of ESPN having a guy like Thompson on staff, who was literally playing a week ago. Thompson’s main job in Game 4 against the Nuggets was to try and bother Jokic after the big man and the Nuggets had figured out how to exploit the Rui Hachimura matchup, and he did fairly well in that matchup, understanding no one (particularly an aging, undersized center) is going to stop him.

Defending Jokic over a seven-game series is incredibly difficult, as it requires constant work to make him uncomfortable and keep him from getting the ball where he wants it on the court. It’s easier said than done, especially over a full series, but this will be what Bam Adebayo and company will be tasked with trying to do starting Thursday night in the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets.

Thompson’s advice is valuable, as he understands the challenge of defending Jokic and the energy required to do so. Opposing bigs need significant frontcourt depth to do that for a full series, something Miami doesn’t have. Jokic, meanwhile, isn’t expending nearly as much energy as Thompson is trying to move him off his spot, which is part of why the big man has been so good late in games this postseason.

In Game 4 against the Nuggets, Thompson performed rather admirably, albeit in defeat. In 10 minutes of play, Thompson had four points and one rebound, giving L.A. an energy boost on both ends in a game where Anthony Davis was struggling mightily to impact things offensively. Thompson’s performance shows that he still has what it takes to play in the NBA, but his knowledge and experience make him a valuable asset to ESPN.

Thompson’s advice to the Miami Heat will be put to the test in the NBA Finals, as they try to stop the dominant force that is Nikola Jokic. It remains to be seen if they can successfully execute Thompson’s strategy, but it’s clear that his insights will be invaluable as the Heat try to win their fourth NBA championship.

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