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Troy Renck: Nuggets series has become Nikola Jokic vs. everybody. And Jokic always wins

Troy Renck, The Denver Post on

Published in Basketball

The Timberwolves began the playoffs with six straight victories, and now have dropped three consecutive games for the first time this season. Minnesota features two coaches — boss Chris Finch and assistant Micah Nori — who spent time on the Nuggets staff. They possess institutional knowledge. And they have no answer for the Nuggets’ basketball Einstein.

Jokic leads by example, not intimidation.

The Nuggets players do what he does out of respect, mirroring his unselfishness. What made Game 5 different and why the Timberwolves will lose Game 6 is because Jokic has solved their Rubik’s Cube. Minnesota finished the season with the league’s best defensive efficiency rating. Following its dominant first two wins, there were comparisons to the 2004 Detroit Pistons.

Time to throw those in one of the state’s 10,000 lakes. Jokic has rendered them worthless. He dropped 40 points. Jokic in the paint was Beethoven at the piano. He bullied Gobert with his forearms, sinking spinning fallaways and left-handed hooks. He sank a 3-pointer in Kyle Anderson’s face, beat Towns on a back cut for a layup, and dunked multiple times.

“I am not entirely sure what I just watched,” forward Aaron Gordon said. “It was ridiculous.”

When the Nuggets dropped the first two home games, the Timberwolves annoyed Jokic. He made 16 of 38 shots (42%) with 11 turnovers and a minus-28 rating. In an off day before Game 3, he was named MVP for the third time, only the ninth player to accomplish the feat. With the national media saying the Nuggets were cooked, it threatened to tarnish his accomplishment.

 

“Nikola is very relaxed. He is passionate, but he doesn’t show it,” backup center DeAndre Jordan said. “When we went down 0-2, I think a switch kind of flipped for him and our entire team.”

The three games since have been the Revenge of the Serb. Jokic has made 40 of 65 shots (61.5%) with seven turnovers and a plus-54 rating. Find a better postseason stretch for a Colorado professional athlete. I dare you. Maybe the Broncos’ Terrell Davis in the 1997 and 1998 playoffs when he put his foot in the ground for 5.52 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. Or Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez in the 2009 playoffs (10 for 17 with three extra-base hits).

For the Timberwolves to even this series, they must either stifle Jokic or match him. That is the evil of two lessers. There is no chance this will happen.

Truth is, we will not see his like again. Except on Thursday in Game 6.


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