DENVER, CO – MARCH 25: Nikola Jokic (15) of the Denver Nuggets feasts on Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and the Milwaukee Bucks in the course of the fourth quarter of Denver’s 129-106 win at Ball Arena in Denver on Saturday, March 25, 2023. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)
When Aaron Gordon heard the query, his eyes almost rolled out of their sockets.
Asked whether or not he appreciated watching Nikola Jokic go to work towards Brook Lopez, the potential Defensive Player of the Year, in Saturday’s 129-106 romp over the Bucks, Gordon stared knowingly up from his locker room stall.
His lengthy side-eye forecast the reply that adopted.
“Can’t nobody stop Joker, man,” Gordon stated. “I don’t care, Defensive Player of the Year. It doesn’t matter. And he was getting fouled. If you’re not fouling him, you’re not stopping him. And he was fouling him, and he was still getting buckets. They weren’t calling and-1s. He’s ridiculous.”
Jokic battered and bludgeoned and spun his strategy to 31 factors on 10-of-20 taking pictures, with 11 assists and 6 rebounds. He went to the free-throw line 11 occasions, abusing Milwaukee’s resolution to play him one-on-one. If he wasn’t muscling via the No. 1 protection, then he was pirouetting round it.
“His footwork, his touch around the rim, the way that he feels the defense and plays off of the defense, it’s incredible, levels ahead of anything I’ve ever seen,” Gordon stated.
Late within the first quarter, Jokic arrange on the left block and drilled Lopez deeper and deeper into the paint. It was the equal of hand-to-hand fight however for NBA giants. The tempo and conviction that he solid his place instructed he knew Lopez couldn’t include him.
I am unable to cease watching this. One of probably the most ruthless, devastating publish strikes I’ve ever seen Jokic make. pic.twitter.com/C3rQ72DoSg
— Mike Singer (@msinger) March 26, 2023
Once he had him the place he needed him, a refined shoulder shimmy froze Lopez, earlier than Jokic swept underneath the hesitation and completed together with his off-hand. Lopez acquired whistled for a foul, which was adopted by a glance of astonishment on the sequence.
“It’s tough because he’s good at drawing the foul,” Lopez advised The Post. “You gotta be smart about that. … You gotta meet his hits.”
Jokic completed floaters, spin-moves and odd-angled hook photographs. He seized on his misleading quickness, baiting Lopez into the air solely to complete in one other path.
Though there have been moments when Jokic’s footwork and contact seemed like he was paying homage to traditional back-to-the-basket massive males, he refused to take credit score for the chess match that performed out between the 2 of them.
“I don’t think that much, to be honest,” stated Jokic, probably the most cerebral gamers within the recreation. “If I cannot go this way, I’m gonna go this way. If not, I’m gonna force it. I think it’s not really that complicated.”
Jokic was downplaying the matchup, maybe out of respect, or maybe for aggressive benefit. It’s greater than believable that these two groups may very well be on a collision course in June.
“He’s really good,” Jokic stated. “He doesn’t jump on pump-fakes. He’s long arms, kinda heavy, smart. … I like him as a player.”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone stated he’s tried to think about how opposing coaches really feel going towards Jokic and the troublesome selections he mandates. With single protection, theoretically, opponents can shadow Denver’s shooters. But on Saturday, the Nuggets buried 15 of their 36 makes an attempt from 3-point vary.
Malone concluded he was “almost unguardable,” for the best way he manipulates defenses and bends them to his will. Recognizing how bodily Saturday’s recreation was being performed, Malone advised Jokic early on to save lots of his mood and let him choose up the technical foul as an alternative. He’s far too priceless to jeopardize with an ejection.
“I understand the pecking order here,” Malone joked.
So does everyone else.
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