Anyone who saw Nikola Jokic fiddle with the microphones during his playoff debut last season knows the Nuggets’ big man has a keen sense of humor.
Following Saturday’s Game 2 victory that saw the Nuggets even their series 1-1 against the Clippers, Jokic was asked why he’s so patient on the offensive end, seemingly canvassing his options. Jokic didn’t miss a beat.
“I’m patient because I cannot really run fast,” he said. “That’s my only option.”
Jokic knew what he was doing, and it’s not the first time he’s said something so self-deprecating and aware. At the All-Star Game in Los Angeles last February, Jokic was asked the most difficult aspect of the skills challenge.
Once again, the big man nailed it: “Running,” he quipped.
And though it’s hilarious, there’s truth in what he’s saying, too. Jokic isn’t going to sprint past the majority of the defenders, so he has to beat them other ways. That’s why his passing, his footwork and the angles he discovers are often so devastating.
Here, Jokic sense PG’s help and decides to use the rim as defense for himself. pic.twitter.com/t5WFhvO9La
— Mike Singer (@msinger) September 6, 2020
“When I’m playing offense and I have the ball I just look for defensive mistakes,” he said. “Just me being a little bit slower kind of gives my teammates a chance to back-cut, lob … Just playing in my comfort zone.”
After a relatively quiet Game 1, Jokic had 26 points, 18 rebounds and four assists in Denver’s Game 2 win. He was particularly devastating in the first half, when he produced 24 points and four 3-pointers.
On the majority of Jokic’s baskets, it was simply a matter of him playing at a different pace than his defenders. His offensive timing might even be better than his comedic one.
The Nuggets busted out to a 44-25 lead after the first quarter, which set the tone for the rest of the game. The offense, which looked stagnant in Game 1, came to life, while the Nuggets threw multiple layers of defense at Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
“We were aggressive, we were playing free,” he said. “That kind of energy just led us to a whole new game.”
It was a huge point of emphasis coming out of Game 1, when the Clippers’ individual defenders had dominated their matchups. Nuggets coach Michael Malone wanted to make sure Denver wasn’t making it too easy for Los Angeles to guard them.
“That first quarter Nikola was phenomenal,” Malone said. “(In) Game 1 … we stood, the ball didn’t move, the bodies didn’t move, we just came down and settled. We did not make their defense work at all. I felt tonight there was a marked difference in our approach, our energy, our movement, and we made ourselves a lot harder to guard. And when we’re at our best, the ball finds the open man.”
That, of course, is Jokic’s specialty. His teammates just have to practice a little patience.