If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.

The Nuggets moved to 43-20 last night after a back-and-forth win over the Boston Celtics. They shot just 4-of-21 from 3-point range. They were outrebounded 47-45, and they shot three fewer free throws. Despite that, Denver led nearly the entire game, and, after taking the lead with 33 seconds left in the first quarter, they were either tied or leading for the remaining three quarters. That’s not to say that Boston never got close. They tied the game up multiple times, and they came storming back late.

However, it wasn’t enough. Some teams struggle in the clutch. There are players that thrive in it. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors is the betting favorite at -280 on average to win Clutch Player of the Year. This is despite the fact that his team is only 18-16 in clutch games, and he’s shooting below 50 percent in clutch situations and has a plus-minus of just 0.1 in those situations. Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic is shooting 54.8 percent on 2.1 attempts in clutch situations while having the third-best plus-minus among players with at least 25 games.

With Jokic as the primary creator, Denver just always seems to find a good shot late in games when things matter most. Sometimes, that means that he’s taking the shot. Others, he’s setting up guys with passes to the corner or the wing, and, as we’ve seen a few times recently, he’s lobbing the ball up for dagger dunks. Regardless of the job gets done, it’s getting done with a high amount of regularity, and teams are struggling to stop it on a night-to-night basis.

Lob City

This clip comes from last weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nuggets were trailing at the half, but they battled back with a strong third quarter. Then, in the fourth quarter, they were almost toying with their opponents. They played back-and-forth basketball for eight minutes, but, after that, they turned into a boa constrictor and just slowly suffocated the Lakers. They went on a 16-4 run over the final four minutes of the game, and they capped it off with this play.

Jokic has the smaller man in Austin Reaves guarding him, and that alone is a win for Denver. Reaves just doesn’t have the size to deny Jokic from getting to the spot he wants to get to on the floor. He backs him down before spinning towards the basket. Rui Hachimura doesn’t want to give up the free layup, but, because of the spacing on the floor, there isn’t anyone to cover the now wide open Aaron Gordon that he just rotated off of. Jokic recognizes it instantly, and Gordon throws it down to put the finishing touches on the win.

Now, we’re going to the play from last night’s game that pushed Denver’s lead to a mark that couldn’t be overcome. Jokic bullies Kristaps Porzingis backwards, and he won’t be denied from getting where he wants. Jrue Holiday sees Porzingis losing position, and he tries to come over and help. Again, that’s the mistake because Denver’s offense is set up for exactly that. Gordon is in the dunker spot awaiting the lob, and Jayson Tatum doesn’t cut him off in time. Even if he was able to deny Gordon, Jokic has a passing lane up top to Jamal Murray or to the corner for a wide-open Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The best way to stop Denver in this position? Hope that your center can guard Jokic by himself.

Clear Out

So, you remember how I said that you have to hope your guy can guard Jokic one-on-one? Sometimes that just doesn’t work because Jokic is simply that good. On this play, it’s a one-on-one matchup between Jokic and Porzingis. He’s been a decent defender throughout his career, and he leads the Celtics’ starters in defensive rating per 100 possessions this season. It doesn’t matter. Jokic just steadily backs him down and has Kristaps grasping for straws and looking for answers.  

Here, it’s a tight game at home in a rematch of the NBA Finals. Jamal Murray left the game early with an injury, and he didn’t play at all in the second half. Jokic is being guarded on this play by Bam Adebayo, who has made second-team All-Defense in four straight seasons, and he’s played Jokic well in the past. He’s not receiving any help on this play, and this is truly a your best vs our best spot. Jokic gets down to the block before rotating into the lane for the hook shot over the outstretched hand of Adebayo. This gave Denver a six-point lead with under a minute remaining, and there was nothing left the Heat could do.

Surrounded by Shot Makers

This isn’t a shot that happens in the clutch minutes of the game, but I view it as a clutch basket nonetheless. The Lakers were in the middle of a 10-6 run in the fourth quarter, and, after trailing by seven early in the quarter, it was now a one-point game. The Nuggets couldn’t get any separation, and this shot gave them a little breathing room and sucked the air out of the room in a hostile environment. Murray uses the screen from Jokic to get Anthony Davis switched onto him, and he immediately starts driving laterally towards the rim. He stops on a dime, but Davis doesn’t stop that fast, and Murray buries the mid-range jumper. The two sides traded baskets down the stretch before Denver came away with the victory, but this shot’s importance flies under the radar.

Our final clip of the day goes back to why you can’t just help onto Jokic whenever you want. Reaves is guarding Michael Porter Jr. near the left wing, and he sees Jokic in a vulnerable spot which prompts him to go for the steal. Then, almost as if he had eyes in the back of his head, Jokic rips the ball upwards at the perfect time before finding MPJ for the wide-open triple. That is your dagger. You had a chance for a big play, and you came up short. This may be because Jokic might actually be a wizard that can also use the force like a jedi and has eyes in the back of his head like your mom when you were a little kid. We’ll never know for sure. The main thing we know is that, when the games get tight during the playoffs, the Nuggets aren’t going to blink because they aren’t blinking now.

For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.