On the seventh day, God rested. But when the Nuggets are to have any shot at pulling off somewhat basketball miracle, middle Nikola Jokic goes to have to tug his weary bones away from bed Sunday morning, pull on his measurement XXL SpongeBob SquarePants underwear and go beat the Portland Path Blazers.
In all of the NBA playoffs, no participant has been requested to sweat extra and relaxation lower than Jokic. If he seems to be drained, that’s as a result of Joker has been required to not solely lead the Nuggets in factors (24.eight per recreation), rebounds (12.6) and assists (9.1), but additionally do it whereas carrying Paul Millsap, Will Barton and under-performing teammates on his shoulders.
Right here is perhaps the craziest statistic of all of them: For all of the Keep Puft Marshmallow Man jokes instructed at his expense, Jokic is the lone participant in the complete 2019 postseason that has performed greater than 400 minutes of basketball. The truth is, no one else is even shut.
This insanity has acquired to cease. How Denver is attempting to win within the playoffs is ridiculous. Even Michael Malone admits it. And he’s the coach using the technique.
“Nikola Jokic performed 65 minutes. That’s remarkable. That’s ridiculous. I can’t do this to him. That’s too many minutes,” Malone stated late Friday, after Denver misplaced 140-137 to the Blazers in a recreation that required 4 additional time intervals earlier than a winner may very well be declared.
Behind Joker’s again, some people snicker he’s fats.
However know what’s the largest well being danger to those Nuggets? Know why they’re down 2-1 on this best-of-seven sequence in opposition to Portland, two steps away from playoff extinction?
Too lots of Jokic’s teammates aren’t pulling their weight.
We’ll begin with Millsap, who has come nowhere near incomes his $29.38 million wage within the playoffs. Two years in the past, as a member of the Atlanta Hawks, Millsap averaged a stellar 24.Three factors and 9.Three rebounds throughout the postseason. These numbers have dropped to a pedestrian 13.Three and 6.Three rebounds for the Nuggets in 2019.
Sure, his function is totally different in Denver. However the decline in productiveness has been gorgeous. Sure, Millsap has been a beneficial mentor to the younger Nuggets. However for almost $30 million, is it an excessive amount of to anticipate Millsap to be one thing greater than a basketball Yoda?
I misplaced the caliber in my Dopp package, so don’t fake to know Jokic’s body-fat share. However I’m fairly sure he has not an oz of false braggadocio on his 7-foot body. As NBA gamers go, he admits to at all times being “somewhat bit chubby.”
Sure, late within the fourth additional time, when Jokic was useless on his ft, he clanked a foul shot that ended a protracted evening of insanity and surrendered the victory to Portland. However cease it with the body-shaming.
Whereas watching Jokic rumble up and down the ground, I’m listening to the lyrics of the large, new pop diva Lizzo: “No, I’m not a snack in any respect. Look, child, I’m the entire (dang) meal.”
Jokic is large, meaty and mmm, mmm good.
However right here’s the issue: Outdoors of the Joker, there isn’t a complete lot of substance to the Nuggets. With to-be-expected missteps, level guard Jamal Murray is scrambling and climbing the steep studying curve of tips on how to grow to be a bona fide star. Defensive stopper Torrey Craig is pure blood and guts. Gary Harris is a robust function participant that might be a top quality fifth starter on a championship group. Malik Beasley? Stuffed with intriguing promise.
I’m not the primary to counsel this, so add my voice to the refrain: In at the very least one essential means, younger Jokic could be very paying homage to a John Elway and Peyton Manning throughout the early years of their Corridor of Fame soccer careers. An awesome quarterback could make everyone look higher and masks the imperfections of teammates.
However ultimately, there’s nowhere to cover within the playoffs.
At crunch time, Jokic can’t seize each rebound, sink each free throw and maintain the hand of each teammate.
All too usually, Nuggets not named Jokic have crumbled at crunch time. Even Murray, probably the most dependable sidekick for Joker to lean on, dribbled the ball and victory out of bounds late in Sport 3.
Jokic doesn’t make excuses. However he wants somewhat assist.
The reality concerning the Nuggets has been uncovered for all America to see underneath the brilliant lights of the playoffs.
Jokic is a legit MVP candidate. Too lots of his teammates, nevertheless, aren’t championship materials.
Let’s hope Millsap, Murray and Barton step on the court docket in Portland and show me improper.
If not, you’ll quickly discover all of them on the seaside.