The message was clear from the Path Blazers throughout their Sport 1 win over the Nuggets on Saturday evening: If Nikola Jokic goes to beat Portland, then he will not be doing it as a passer.
Denver’s MVP candidate had 34 factors and 16 rebounds in a 123-109 loss, however he was restricted to a season-low and playoff career-low one help. That was largely attributable to Terry Stotts’ sport plan, which referred to as for single protection on Jokic somewhat than aggressive double-teams. It is a good technique contemplating the Nuggets are at present counting on backup guards who do not usually create their very own offense following the losses of Jamal Murray, Will Barton and PJ Dozier to accidents.
Jokic torched Path Blazers huge males Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter within the early going of Sport 1. Take a look at how a lot time and house Jokic has to function right here.
Portland refused to ship assist even on clear mismatches. When Robert Covington (6-7, 209 kilos) switched onto Jokic (6-11, 284 kilos), each different Path Blazers defender stayed house.
If they don’t seem to be coming to double when Jokic has Covington on him, they don’t seem to be coming to avoid wasting anybody. Jokic has 22 factors, six rebounds, and 0 assists. pic.twitter.com/chVz5IBAKt
— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) May 23, 2021
Jokic dropped 22 factors in 18 first-half minutes, however he walked into the locker room with zero assists and a slender three-point lead. His one-on-one success did not deter the Path Blazers one bit, as they caught to the script over the ultimate two quarters.
Jokic is simply so unbothered man. Nurkic is giving all the trouble. Recovers to the pop. Comprises the drive. Is there within the publish. Jokic simply took two dribbles turned and let it go. pic.twitter.com/PArURVofpl
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) May 23, 2021
That persistence paid off towards arguably the best passing middle of all time. With Jokic unable to arrange straightforward alternatives for his teammates, Portland outscored Denver 65-48 within the second half on its solution to a 1-0 sequence lead.
Whereas the Path Blazers’ dynamic duo of Damian Lillard (34 factors, 13 assists) and CJ McCollum (21 factors) did harm, in addition they received a serious increase from Nurkic (16 factors, 12 rebounds, 5 assists), Carmelo Anthony (18 factors) and Anfernee Simons (14 factors). The non-Jokic Nuggets weren’t horrible from the sector, however they struggled from 3-point vary and did not get to the free throw line. Michael Porter Jr. specifically had a tough evening, going 1 of 10 from past the arc with no free throw makes an attempt.
|Remainder of Nuggets||75||33-66||8-29||1-4|
After Sport 1, Stotts, Lillard and Nurkic all famous how necessary it’s to not enable Jokic to contain others. Denver’s offense is higher when Jokic is throwing darts out of the publish that lead on to buckets or begin a sequence response from which the protection cannot get well. That merely did not occur Saturday.
Regardless of being a No. 3 seed within the Western Convention with the doubtless MVP, it positive feels just like the short-handed Nuggets are dealing with an uphill climb. The Path Blazers’ method laid naked their limitations, and Jokic’s particular person brilliance will not be sufficient to beat them.