To no surprise, Nikola Jokic dominated again with 38 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists as the Denver Nuggets rolled to a 106-100 win over the Sacramento Kings. He was as efficient as ever on 63% shooting from the field and had his way in the paint from start to finish. He put up 15 points in the first quarter.
“He almost has a sense where the defender is, when to use that shot fake, when to score right away, and he set the tone from jump street,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “That’s what I liked about tonight. A few games ago against New Orleans he kind of played and waited to take over. First quarter he set the tone right away.”
The Nuggets went 4-0 against the Kings this season after being swept by them last season. Jokic averaged 28 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists against them this year, which is not an easy task against one team. He also had to work for every one of those buckets and for him, he doesn’t find those extra spin moves and shot fakes enjoyable like the fans do.
“I would like to score 40 points just around the basket with no one around me and just to lay it in. I don’t have fun doing all of those things,” Jokic said.
Although he wishes his shots were easier, the tough ones he makes looks flawless. Late in the fourth quarter, his handle of the ball was like poetry in motion going behind the back, to a crossover, and hit a couple spins moves to the cup. He is well defended on all those plays but there’s not much opponents can do to stop him. Even his own teammate, Monte Morris, didn’t have an answer to how he’d stop him, or well, at least one that he would share.
“I can’t leak that,” Morris said with a laugh. “I don’t know. He has been dominating for so long. There’s really nothing you can do. I asked my homeboys from other teams like when we go to dinner after the game or something I was like,’ yo, what do ya’ll be saying in the locker room about Nikola to try to stop him?’ And they said, ‘we really don’t say nothing we just try to double team him as much as we can and make him tired but that ain’t working.’”
Morris has been teammates with Jokic for five years so he has seen first hand the kind of versatile, once in a generation talent Jokic is and he thinks the reigning MVP deserves more credit.
“This guy is playing phenomenal,” Morris said. “He has been doing it for a long time. I feel like he still doesn’t get enough credit being able to put up these numbers night in and night out, if guys go out, injuries, he is still putting the team on his back, and I feel like the world needs to talk about that more and it should be a no brainer who the MVP is this year.”
There’s that saying that goes, ‘it takes two to tango,’ and in this case, Morris has played a big role in Jokic’s success as well. Their chemistry is off the charts mainly because both are selfless and willing passers who will do whatever it takes to win the game.
“I’ve always been a good passer coming from high school and college and good thing it translated to the NBA,” Morris said. “He has always been known for his passing so you put two guys in the two man game 9 times out of ten we’ll make the right read. We’re both pass first guys so it’s easy to play.”
Morris also filled us in on a little secret: the two basically can telepathically communicate at this point.
“I think our chemistry is really well,” Morris said. “Off the court we have grown a friendship and it’s translating on the court… I tell everyone all the time that we talk on the court through our eyes. Just looking and stuff like that. We got that down pact. It has been fun. He makes the game a lot easier for sure.”
In addition to Jokic’s big time performance, Morris did work on Wednesday night as well scoring 20 points. As a team, Denver shot 49% from the field but did struggle from downtown, its 58 points in the paint made up for it, though.
The Nuggets have now won four in a row and 12 of their last 14 games. Malone attributes that being top three in the NBA in defense and top seven in offense. However, the next few days is perhaps their most difficult section of the schedule yet with their second back to back this week and playing the Warriors, Raptors and Sixers in a five-day span.
They host the Warriors at home in Ball Arena on Thursday night and host the Raptors on Saturday before heading to the east coast to face the Sixers, Wizards, and Cavaliers.
Denver currently has the same 40-26 record as the Mavericks and are just two and a half games behind the Jazz for the 4-seed. As of now, Denver remains in sixth place in the Western Conference standings