Sports

“Legend of Nikola Jokic”: Inside the Nuggets superstar’s second consecutive game-winner


MINNEAPOLIS — Maybe the most remarkable thing about Nikola Jokic’s second consecutive game-winning shot was how unremarkable it felt.

At least to his teammates.

The Nuggets had gone scoreless over the final 6:43 of regulation. They had turned the ball over 10 times and sent Minnesota to the free-throw line 14 times during their fourth-quarter collapse. A 16-point lead had vanished to force overtime, where they had committed two more turnovers.

Yet when Jokic bailed them out for the second time in three days with an improbable, baseline fadeaway in the face of 7-foot Karl-Anthony Towns, the Nuggets’ postgame locker room carried on as if nothing special had just happened. The postgame meals were enjoyed, and the buses were ready to head to the airport.

“Like, whatever,” Paul Millsap said of the reception Jokic got after he saved them in Sunday’s 100-98 win over the Timberwolves to improve to 7-2. “You expect that. It’s to the point where you expect him to make it every time. … At this point, you just sit back and watch it.”

Commonplace. Nothing to see here. That was the sentiment after Jokic drained back-to-back game-winning shots, first on Friday against Philadelphia and second on Sunday at Minnesota. The difference was that Friday’s shot only left 2.2 seconds on the clock. Sunday’s gave the Timberwolves 3.3 seconds to respond.

Jokic wasn’t immune to the shooting woes that temporarily paralyzed Denver’s offense and led to a 36% second-half shooting percentage. Prior to his game-winner, he had made just one of his previous nine shots. Yet as his been the theme over the last week and a half with the Nuggets, team officials have implored him to keep shooting.

“We just know we can count on him,” said Will Barton, whose two overtime 3-pointers helped break the stalemate. “Me and Jerami (Grant) and Gary (Harris) were just talking about it. We just know he’s going to deliver for us.”

Jokic, while enjoying his well-earned meal, joked that he prefers the harder shots to the easy ones.

“Seems like it,” he quipped.

Despite finishing with 20 points and seven assists, he bemoaned how many open looks he missed Sunday.

“Fadeaway is a tough shot,” he said. “You cannot even stop that. Nobody … I mean, you can, but you need to really predict it.”

The game never would’ve rested in Jokic’s massive hands if it weren’t for Barton’s two 3-pointers. Just as he did against Philadelphia on Friday, Barton hit the shots that set the stage for Jokic.

“I told him, ‘They cannot go under you, ever,’ ” Jokic said. “He’s a great shooter. Whenever they go under, you just pull up. That’s a great shot for us.”

And so tied at 98, rather than put the ball in the hands of Jamal Murray, who was coming off what coach Michael Malone described as the “best passing” game of his career, the Nuggets got Barton to initiate the play. Murray had already turned the ball over seven times; it was Barton’s offense to orchestrate.

“He’s just such a …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

      

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