Nikola Jokic overcame suffocating double groups to turn into the fourth participant in NBA historical past to document a triple-double in his playoff debut and the primary since LeBron James in 2006.
What did it imply to him?
“To be trustworthy, nothing,” Jokic mentioned.
It additionally mattered little to the San Antonio Spurs, who beat the Denver Nuggets 101-96 in Sport 1 of their Western Convention playoff sequence Saturday night time.
Jokic’s accomplishment was rendered a footnote by LaMarcus Aldridge’s suffocating protection, DeMar DeRozen’s 18 factors, Derrick White’s clinching steal within the closing seconds and all these wide-open pictures that simply did not fall for Denver.
Though Jokic pulled down 14 rebounds and dished out 14 assists, he took simply 9 pictures, made 4, and was restricted to 10 factors, lower than half his common season scoring common of 20.1.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich referred to as it a wash as a result of Aldridge wasn’t himself, both, going simply 6 of 19 for 15 factors.
“We did not let Jokic play as he wished and so they did not let LaMarcus play as a lot as he wished,” Popovich mentioned. “It will be significant as a result of they’re each nice gamers and they’ll proceed to get a whole lot of consideration all through the sequence.”
Aldridge mentioned that is what everybody can count on this complete sequence, too.
“Each bigs type of by no means actually bought comfy down there. When you’ve gotten two bigs which can be so large on your workforce, it’ll be like that,” Aldridge mentioned. “We did an excellent job of simply making an attempt to combine it up on him. They did the identical factor on me.”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone mentioned he didn’t want his All-Star had taken extra pictures.
“Each time he put it down, there was any person proper there. They trapped him each time,” Malone mentioned. “So, I believe Nikola has a excessive IQ. He will make the proper play. Sadly, we did not make them pay for double-teaming sufficient.”
The Nuggets made simply 42 p.c of their pictures, 21 p.c from 3-point vary, and missed eight free throws whereas failing to attain a single fast-break basket.
“I believe if we’re making pictures, it turns into loads more durable to double-team him constantly,” Malone mentioned. “They stayed with it as a result of we could not make a shot. So, that was the powerful factor about it. However I like Nikola’s strategy. I like his play-making. I like his passing.”
The sellout crowd on the Pepsi Middle, the place the Nuggets went 34-7 for one of the best residence document within the league, definitely wished Jokic to take extra pictures. However even these calls quieted after Jokic shot an airball on a Three at an important level within the fourth quarter.
White stole the ball at midcourt from Jamal Murray with 1.Three seconds left after Aldridge sank a pair of free throws following his key defensive rebound of Murray’s errant shot that might have given the Nuggets the lead with seven seconds left.
Sport 2 is Tuesday night time in Denver.
Making their first playoff look in six years, the Nuggets trailed many of the night time, however they trimmed a 12-point deficit to 1 within the last minute.
They’d the ball with 6.9 seconds left and wanted a Three although they had been simply 6 for 28 from the arc. However they by no means bought the possibility to tie it as a result of White, a second-year professional who moved into an even bigger function when Dejounte Murray bought damage within the preseason, stripped Murray and drew the foul, then sank each pictures.
“He was spectacular,” Popovich mentioned. “For any person who bought put in that place and to study that place with a bunch of latest gamers, it is actually outstanding what he is carried out. Hopefully, he’ll proceed to play that manner as a result of it’ll be a protracted sequence.”
Requested what changes he had in thoughts for Sport 2, Malone mentioned merely, “Make pictures.”
San Antonio: The Spurs have gained 5 of six playoff sequence in opposition to the Nuggets with their solely sequence defeat coming in 1985. … San Antonio is making its 22nd straight playoff look, this one with a brand new forged that features DeRozan, who came visiting from Toronto within the Kawhi Leonard commerce. … The Spurs’ win marked the third by a street workforce on the opening day of the NBA playoffs. They joined the Nets, who gained at Philadelphia, and Magic, who gained at Toronto.
Denver: The Nuggets are 6-21 in opposition to the Spurs within the playoffs. … The Nuggets have misplaced seven of their final 12 residence video games in opposition to San Antonio. … Denver gained the Northwest Division title for the primary time since 2010. … Gary Harris led Denver with 20 factors and Murray had 17, however that was on 8-of-24 taking pictures, together with zero for six from the arc.
Sport 2 is Tuesday night time in Denver.