What word would you use to describe Nikola Jokic’s 37-point, 9-rebound, 6-assist game?
Adam Mares: Routine. It’s wild but Jokic has been so good this post season that a 37-point night felt like it was just another day at the office. The Portland Trail Blazers don’t have anyone who can guard him so there’s a decent chance this isn’t the last 30+ point game we see from Jokic this week.
Ryan Blackburn: Timely. The Nuggets, after losing Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs last round, needed to start this series in the driver’s seat. They did just that tonight, and Jokic was the biggest reason why. It’s very timely of Jokic to put up this kind of performance in 41 minutes of action two days after carrying the load in Game 7, and Jokic bringing it tonight helped others excel.
Brendan Vogt: Quiet. Stat line says he was great, and he was, but it didn’t necessarily feel like a dominant game from him. This isn’t a knock—Jokic is simply making these types of games look routine. Truth be told I thought he looked a little tired out there and maybe had more to give on the defensive end. His baseline is just so high now. We’re watching greatness.
Evan Fiala: Exceptional. What other words are there? He is just so, so good and the Blazers don’t have an answer for him. Jokic is having a historic postseason and not many people realize it. I just can’t believe anyone could objectively look at what Jokic is doing and still think he still has to prove anything to anyone. Add Game 1 to the long list of his masterpiece performances.
What part of Jamal Murray’s game one was most impressive: the 23 points, the 8 assists, or the 1 turnover?
Mares: The 1 turnover. Murray’s pass to Jokic on the roll in the 4th quarter was probably the best pass of his career. He might’ve had flashier passes but that one had a high degree of difficulty and is the exact type of delivery to a rolling Jokic that will open up the Nuggets’ offense. He’s grown a lot over the course of the season at hitting Jokic in that spot.
Blackburn: The 8 assists, though the turnover is close. Murray is simply in control out there, un-phased by the playoff pressure after going through the gauntlet against the Spurs. Tonight, he helped set up Jokic for some easy baskets, and they were passes that yielded a high points per possession on shots in the paint or behind the arc. Great to see from the 22-year-old learning on the fly.
Vogt: I’ll be “that guy” and take both the assists and the turnover. The assists reflect his increasing understanding of Jokic’s gravity and his own impact as someone with lethal scoring ability. The turnover reflects his developing ability to protect the basketball. We didn’t get the huge leap that some expected this season, but Murray is growing up in front of our eyes.
Fiala: Considering the lone turnover came when Malik Beasley tripped over himself and that he should have had zero turnovers, I’m inclined to go with that. Murray’s growth in the playoffs was reflected in his Game 1 performance, not just as a scorer but as a point guard. Turnovers have been a problem for him all year so when he can go out, control the ball and make the right reads it’s a beautiful thing.
Nikola Jokic already has a 43-point game, a 37-point game, and two triple doubles in the playoffs. Which playoff game has been his best so far?
Mares: The 43-point game was probably the most impressive in a vacuum but I thought game 7 against San Antonio showed a lot of heart and grit from Jokic. He defended like a madman in that game while giving the Nuggets a triple-double. It just felt like he was up for whatever the team needed from him in that one, even if his shot disappeared in the 4th quarter. Factor in that it was a pressure-filled, do-or-die game and I think that one gets the nod.
Blackburn: Game 6 against the Spurs was the only one where my jaw truly hit the floor. He was in his bag that night and carried the Nuggets in a way I had never seen him carry them before. That was a career high in points, and he did it by relentlessly attacking the paint, creating shots for himself, and still managed to generate 9 assists. It came in a loss, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be his best game. Just a wonderful performance.
Vogt: Game 6 in San Antonio was probably the best game that I’ve seen Jokic play, outside of his perfect game against Phoenix in the home opener. It’s funny, the other game that always stands out for me is his performance in the game 82 last season against the Minnesota Timberwolves. A masterful third quarter and a masterpiece in the playoffs both wasted in a loss.
Fiala: Game 6 was a great performance, but I think Game 7 truly encapsulated just how good Jokic is. The stakes were high and for someone with no prior elimination experience he performed above expectations on both ends of the floor. The triple-double was impressive but his defense really helped fluster the Spurs the entire game and is something he surely doesn’t get enough credit for. I don’t think anything is more telling than how when the clock ran out, Jokic couldn’t even raise his fist to celebrate. He stood there with his hands on his knees after 43 minutes of laying it all on the line. Game 7 was his best game.