Nikola Jokic is must-see TV and blink or turn away from one Denver Nuggets possession over the course of 48 minutes of action, and you’re liable to miss what could turn out to be the NBA’s play of the year.
Not one, not two, but a trio of those plays took place in Denver’s 125-107 win over the Orlando Magic. Jokic was a catalyst on all three.
First, a one-handed tip pass from the middle of the Nuggets’ paint to the opposite corner where Jokic found Will Barton for a three. Somehow Barton was waiting and ready.
“I just know his game now,” Barton said about how he stays alert when Jokic’s assists seem to appear out of thin air. “I’ve been his teammate for a while now and I know he’s always looking and even when he’s not looking, he sees you. He has a great feel of where everyone is and how he has to make the pass, he’ll make it whether he taps it to you, kicks it to you, he’s going to get the ball when you’re open.”
The second, a Dirk Nowitzki-esque one-footed fadeaway three from the right corner right immediately in front of Denver’s bench and Nuggets’ coach Michael Malone.
“I know it’s going in,” Malone said of the shot. “It’s funny, Nikola’s one of those guys, he’s just got great touch and the shot clock is going down and for him to step back, one-legged and to just go straight through, there’s nothing he does that amazes me because he’s just that kind of a guy.”
“That’s what I do. That was going in, it didn’t touch rim,” Jokic said. “I knew it (was going in).”
And the third, a halfcourt alley-oop lob to Kenneth Faried that looked to be on a collision-course with the shot clock instead of The Manimal’s mitts.
Jokic also thought it was out of Faried’s reach.
“I thought it was too high, but he can jump high,” Denver’s big man said. “I thought it was a little strong but he caught it. It was a nice play.”
But when asked if there was any doubt that he could convert Jokic’s halfcourt lob, Faried knew he had it in the bad. In fact, the only time he wasn’t sure if he could jump high enough was five years ago. He recalled the exact game.
“I only had that one time, and that was in 2012-13 season when JaVale McGee almost took out Ty Lawson‘s knee and threw the ball over the backboard,” Faried said. “And I was like yeah, I cant get that.”
“The dunks that he does at practice are more spectacular than that,” Jokic continued. “He can jump and he can do a lot of things in the air.”
Jokic finished with 12 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists, “a joke” of a stat line according to Malone, but it was his three SportsCenter Top-10 worthy plays that set Denver’s offense in motion towards a 70-point first half, 53 percent shooting on the night and an 18-point win.