NEW ORLEANS – Nikola Jokic picked the Pelicans apart like it was NBA2K.
Though Jokic copped to playing the wildly popular NBA game, the reigning MVP said he never plays as himself.
“Anybody else,” he said with a grin after dropping 39 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in Wednesday’s dramatic overtime win over New Orleans.
Jokic served up 11 points in overtime, seizing complete control of the game and overwhelming his counterpart, Jonas Valanciunas, on numerous occasions. Among his tricks, Jokic drained floaters, finished put-backs, buried open jumpers, baited defenders and deked his opponents into the ground.
“He’s just the best big,” said JaMychal Green. “He really is. He’s so skilled. It’s just crazy.”
When pushed to describe that skill, Green hammered the point in virtual terms.
“Man, I feel like 2K gotta add him in 99 everything,” Green said.
Late in the fourth quarter, Jokic pulled off a double spin move to free himself from Valanciunas’ strength and length. The deft bucket gave the Nuggets a temporary 105-103 lead before Valanciunas’ put-back tied it once again.
“What spin move?” Jokic said. “… I just did a lot of spins.”
39 PTS, 11 REB, 11 AST
— NBA (@NBA) December 9, 2021
Never one to reveal his secrets, Jokic had little to say when asked how he processes opposing defenses and decides which vulnerability to attack.
“I don’t want to tell you that,” he said wryly.
At least Green would. The veteran big – whom Jokic adores for his energy and toughness – cited a play late in the fourth quarter where Jokic flattened out their offensive set, ran a pick-and-roll and went to work. Jokic reads opposing defenses like Broncos legend Peyton Manning, only his audibles come during live sets.
“He knows what’s coming,” Green said.
As do opposing defenses, yet they seem to have little or no chance of stopping it. Nuggets coach Michael Malone left no room for interpretation when asked about their fourth-quarter offense.
“When the game is on the line, when we need a basket, the ball is going to go to him,” Malone said. “It’s no longer going to be that equal-opportunity offense.”
In reality, it hasn’t been for several years, but without Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Jr. available, even more of the playmaking inevitably runs through him.
“Just to be on a team, in a locker room with a guy that just has the ability to take a game over,” Malone said. “He’s not going to out-quick you. He’s not going to out-jump you. He’s going to out-skill you. He’s going to out-smart you. And he does it so methodically.”
An assassin at heart, Jokic might still be the NBA’s most reluctant superstar.
“To be honest, I don’t want to do it, but they made me do it,” Jokic said. “… I’m joking.”