Seven nuggets for the last seven All-Star Games, which have taken place without a representative from the Denver Nuggets. That drought should come to an end next month.
1. Nikola Jokic sucks the life out of a defense without ever getting six inches off the floor. Take the two highlight plays he made in the second half of Thursday’s 121-100 demolition of the Los Angeles Clippers.
First, Jokic did his best Patrick Mahomes impression by collecting a rebound, turning and firing a 70-foot bomb downcourt to Jamal Murray for a flush. Jokic did it with one hand in a single motion — an impossibly smooth sequence for a 7-footer.
Later in the fourth, Jokic stepped through two Clippers and boinked a pass off the backboard to the player with the surest hands on the team: himself.
“I told him on the bench that every time I’ve seen someone use that trick, they’ve gone up and dunked it,” Michael Malone said.
Jokic puts his own spin on everything. His unorthodox approach has the Nuggets in first place in the Western Conference as the halfway point approaches — a position nobody predicted.
“He’s an All-Star,” Paul Millsap said. “He’s made us an All-Star group. To pick us up like that and be creative like that.”
Carmelo Anthony was the last Nuggets player to make an All-Star Game. He did it in 2011 and was traded to the New York Knicks one day after the game. Jokic, who recorded his fifth triple-double of the season Thursday, looks like the next Nugget who will break through. Jokic won’t get enough fan votes to earn a starting spot, but coaches, who vote on All-Star reserves, should give the big man his due.
Jokic is averaging 19.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists. He’s put the Nuggets on his back while they’ve weathered injury after injury. It’s a safe bet to book that flight to Charlotte for the Feb. 17 exhibition game involving the NBA’s biggest stars. Start mentally preparing yourself for some sweet lob passes.
“Another triple-double,” Malone said. “The guy continues to amaze.”
2. Cool moment after the beatdown: Jokic and Von Miller exchanged jerseys on the court. Football is played with your feet where Jokic comes from, but ever since he came to the States, he has paid attention to the American version of the sport.
“It means a lot, to be honest,” Jokic said of his moment with Miller. “I watch him a lot. He had an injury. He was the (Super Bowl) MVP, but he’s a defensive player. I look up to him, the whole team looks up to him. He was an MVP, but he’s playing defense. That’s what we’re trying to do. He’s a beast, animal. He was an MVP and playing the best. That’s what we’re trying to do. He’s a beast. He can’t be stopped. He’s someone I look up to and really admire.”