After the game I asked Nikola Jokic if there was something that caused him to get more aggressive in the second half of the game. He hated that question. “I wasn’t aggressive. I was the same the whole game. I played the same way.” I stand corrected!
I think a lot of Nuggets fans, myself included, fall into the trap sometimes of thinking we understand basketball better than the Joker. “Why didn’t you shoot more? Why didn’t you try to post up more? What’s with the passive play?” Meanwhile Jokic casually puts up 14-9-8 on 4-6 shooting and is a team-high +24 all while stringing together a handful of highlight worthy passes.
I went back and watched the first half again to see if I was just seeing things wrong and to see if there was a discernable difference in Jokic’s aggression in the first half and the second half. Maybe I was wrong? I still don’t know. In the 3rd and 4th quarters he looked like the best player on the court. I didn’t think that was the case in the first half but on re-watch he didn’t really make any mistakes or do anything wrong. He kept the ball moving and, outside of a few rebounding lapses, he ran the show when he was on the floor.
The lesson, as always, is that Jokic usually knows better than we do what and who he is supposed to be for the Denver Nuggets. Tonight that meant getting the ball where it needed to go whether that was pinpoint lobs on an out-of-bounds play or no-look dimes off of offensive rebounds. Jokic was a team-high +24 for a reason, even if we don’t always know what those reasons are.