It is hard to say that a basketball player choked in a playoff game where he scored 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds but that is what Nikola Jokic did late in game 3 versus the Los Angeles Clippers. For three and a half quarters Jokic played an incredible game, but the team defense of the Clippers throughout the entire game wears players down, gets them fatigued and exposes players weaknesses. The Clippers did it with the Mavericks in the first round, exposing their lack of rebounders. The Clippers manned up on the Nuggets in game 3 late in the fourth quarter with several critical steals that led to quick fast break points to narrowly escape game 3 with a victory.
I am not a fan of the “New” Big Man of the NBA, a center who wants to be a shooting guard, but between Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic shooting threes and taking most of their shots out of the paint, it seems that this new fad position is here to stay. However I do not see many of these three point shooting big men winning very many Championships because it has never really happened before other than Dirk Nowitzki. He only won one Championship, basically because Tyson Chandler was in the paint grabbing all of his bricks. However, the Nuggets do have a rebounding player similar to Tyson Chandler in Michael Porter Jr. I think if Jokic and Porter stay with the Nuggets they could win a Championship. I seriously doubt that they win this series though.
The Clippers exposed Jokic the new Dirk, a center who wants to be a shooting guard, how? Jokic cannot dribble the ball. He is way too big, he cannot physically get down low enough to effectively protect the basketball out beyond the free throw line. You never saw Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Shaquille O’Neal posting up centers beyond the three point line, why? Because it is not smart basketball. The Clippers guards flew in on Jokics’ blindside and stole the basketball for an easy two. You think the Nuggets would have changed the play, get the ball to Porter maybe? No, same play, their center posting up again at the three point line. Something which no Championship winning team has ever done in the history of the NBA. Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone’s poor play calling cost the Nuggets game 2 and probably their best chance at defeating the heavily favored Clippers in this second round match up.
Jokic is no joke.
He is an incredibly talented young player, he looks like a more athletic Dirk Nowitzki who can actually get a rebound. If the Nuggets somehow win this series it will be one of the biggest upsets in NBA history. Time will tell if the shooting center can become a dominant force in the league but more times than not, if a team’s center is dribbling the ball at the top of the key during crunch time or any time for that matter, it is not going to turn out well. It just is something that I have never really seen before and for good reason, because it does not consistently work. Maybe, during the regular season when the referees are calling those private school fouls but not in the playoffs baby.
Championships are won and lost in the paint (Just ask Kawhi Leonard…); always have been and always will be.