Watching Nikola Jokic play the game of basketball is fun for a lot of reasons. He’s one of the best passers in the game and is the focal point of his team’s offense, all while looking like he has a cold at all times.
When you watch Jokic lumber up the floor, it’s hard to believe that this guy is one of the premier offensive weapons in today’s game. In all sports, and especially the game of basketball, we’re used to seeing the best players and the best athletes as one and the same. Jokic breaks that mold. The best part? He’s still learning to get better. Part of the enjoyment of watching such a young player is seeing him come into his own and realize the full extent of his powers.
Jokic has to get on the fast track for his education, though, because if he doesn’t perform like the best player on the floor, the Nuggets will be going home early. As he has all season, Jokic regularly makes the right pass and never misses a cutter, which is all well and good. But the best player on the floor looks for his own bucket and makes the defense adjust, instead of taking what the defense gives him.
He did just that in Game 1 against the Blazers, and it resulted in 37 points on 18 shots and a win to open the series. In Game 2, it was a bit of a different story. Jokic took 17 shots but finished with only 16 points, and couldn’t afford to be as aggressive as Game 1 after getting into foul trouble early on.
Ultimately, the fate of the Nuggets on Wednesday night had more to do with Jokic’s teammates going ice cold from all over the floor, but it was a bit of a letdown from Jokic after a monster Game 1 and several big performances in the first round.
Jokic is everything for the Nuggets. To elevate them to the next level, he has to believe he’s the best guy out there and act accordingly. It’s especially important for him to look to score with Jamal Murray going hot and cold as often as Katy Perry. Considering the Blazers are using a rotation of Enes Kanter, Meyers Leonard, and Zach Collins at center, Jokic should be dominating.
There’s still a long way to go, but it’s hard to see Denver going much farther unless Jokic takes over. He’s capable of doing it. He just needs to take that next step and start doing it when it matters most.