It’s difficult to put into words how important Nikola Jokic’s success is to the Denver Nuggets. While players around him have performed admirably to help the Nuggets to a 6-2 record, namely Jamal Murray, it is Jokic who serves as the backbone when times get rough. The superstar center may waver in his willingness to shoot for the sake of shooting, but tonight, the Nuggets needed every shot.
Jokic delivered in the biggest way, going toe to toe with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid in a matchup between the NBA’s two best centers. Embiid, though he may never admit it, clearly wanted to get the best of Joker throughout this contest, but Jokic never gave in. 26 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and a game-winning jump shot later, Jokic calmed down some of the doubters in his physique and mental engagement to start the year.
The talk has been loud, but Jokic’s play tonight, in the face of possibly the best defense and best individual defender the league has to offer, was far louder. The Nuggets got their superstar back. Hopefully, he’s here to stay.
Others contributed to the comeback of course. Jamal Murray’s steady play and crafty passing down the stretch was a major step for him. This may have been the most complete game of Murray’s young career. Paul Millsap made a clutch three in transition. Will Barton hit a contested step-back three himself.
But in the end, it comes down to the final shot. Murray got the ball moving to Jokic on the wing, who dumped a pass down to Millsap under the hoop. Surrounded by three defenders, Millsap made the veteran played and dribbled out of traffic, working for a better shot. He found one with Jokic, who hit another clutch game-winner.
Add it to the darn list.