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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Jokic Delivers 40 Point, 13 Assist Masterclass as Nuggets Defeat Timberwolves, 112-97

Nikola Jokic does not say much, but he does not have to say much because his game speaks volumes. He scored a game-high 40 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished for a game-high 13 assists with no turnovers as his Denver Nuggets cruised past the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-97 to take a 3-2 series lead. Jokic had an excellent game four (35 points, seven rebounds, seven assists), including 16 fourth quarter points, but he was even better in game five, shooting 15-22 from the field while showing off an array of moves both in the paint and on the perimeter. Even though Jokic is a big-time scorer, he is also unselfish, and his unselfishness is contagious; it is refreshing to watch the Nuggets hunt the best shots for the team as opposed to players hunting for individual opportunities for points or assists. Aaron Gordon had another strong performance (18 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), and Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points each.

Karl Anthony-Towns led Minnesota with 23 points, and Rudy Gobert contributed 18 points on 7-7 field goal shooting plus a game-high 11 rebounds. Gobert will undoubtedly be the scapegoat because that is the preferred narrative for many media members, but it should be noted that he had a -2 plus/minus number while every other Minnesota starter was -12 or worse. It is true that Gobert cannot guard Jokic one on one, but no one can guard a great player one on one; when Hakeem Olajuwon torched David Robinson in the 1995 playoffs that did not mean that Robinson is terrible but rather that Olajuwon is an all-time great. 

It is fascinating to observe how media members shape their preferred narratives. When LeBron James' teams lose, it is never his fault, even though he is touted as being the greatest player of all-time. When Russell Westbrook's teams lose, it is always his fault, no matter how he is used or how his teammates performed. Rudy Gobert has been the defensive anchor for a Minnesota team that finished third in the Western Conference, but the fact that he cannot lock down Jokic supposedly proves that he is "unplayable."

Only a few days ago, we were told that Anthony Edwards is the next Michael Jordan. If that is true, then why wouldn't this loss be his fault after he scored just 18 points on 5-15 field goal shooting? 

Michael Jordan played 179 playoff games. Do you know how many times he scored 18 points or less in a playoff game? Four times. Jordan's teams went 6-0 in the NBA Finals as he won six Finals MVPs. Edwards' teams have won one playoff series. The foolish comparisons need to stop. Edwards is a very talented young player, and he deserves the opportunity to become whatever he will become without being prematurely built up as the next Jordan. Edwards is not even close to Jordan in productivity, let alone career accomplishments. Edwards averaged a career-high 25.9 ppg this year in his fourth season, finishing seventh in MVP voting. Jordan averaged 35.0 ppg in his fourth season while winning his second consecutive scoring title and the first of his five regular season MVPs--and Jordan missed most of his second season due to a foot injury, so his fourth season was really just his third full season. The 22 year old Edwards has yet to match 21 year old rookie Jordan, who averaged 28.2 ppg and finished sixth in MVP voting.

That being said, even though it is unreasonable to compare Edwards to Jordan it is not unreasonable to expect Edwards to put his stamp on what was essentially an elimination game: game five winners in 2-2 series win the series over 80% of the time. Edwards has done a lot of talking on and off the court during this series, but well done is better than well said; Edwards has scored less than 20 points in two of the past three games, and that is not enough.

The main story here, though, is not the Timberwolves. The Nuggets are the reigning NBA champions, and after falling into an 0-2 hole they are one win away from logging four straight victories against the Timberwolves.

The Nuggets did not play well by their standards while eliminating the L.A. Lakers 4-1, but they have had to raise their game to beat this strong Minnesota team. This brings to mind the time that Larry Bird spent most of a game versus Portland playing left-handed. Asked why he did it, Bird quipped that he was saving his right hand for the Lakers (that was back when the Lakers were a contender, unlike now). The Nuggets can beat the Lakers playing "left-handed," but that will not work against the Timberwolves. It looks like playing five games against the Lakers was poor preparation for facing a legit playoff team--but now that the Nuggets got their wake-up call they are poised to put the Timberwolves to sleep.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:28 AM



At Wednesday, May 15, 2024 5:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Kind of a side issue, but I don't understand Draymond Green's presence on TNT the other night. The man should be a pariah re: his thuggish behavior in the NBA over the years. Why is TNT endorsing, or condoning at the very least, this man who should have been arrested for assault and battery for having punched his teammate in the face?

Moreover, Green's comments on Rudy Gobert were clearly biased. They've had run-ins in the past and so it's obvious to anyone that's aware of their lowkey feud that Green was venting his feelings against Gobert, with his over-the-top comments about Gobert getting "embarrassed" by Jokic. Not to speak of Green's absurd self-aggrandizing claims that he's better than Charles Barkley was.


Anyway, as you pointed out, nobody one-on-one can stop a truly great offensive player, especially a three-time MVP like Jokic who could be very join your Pantheon by the time he's done.

Shame on TNT for validating Green's clownish thuggery.

At Wednesday, May 15, 2024 5:53:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


It is unfortunate that anyone—let alone a primary media outlet like TNT—would give Green a platform.

At Thursday, May 16, 2024 3:58:00 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

One of the most blatant examples of the media’s pro-LeBron/anti-Westbrook bias happened in the 2014-2015 season. In an April 12th loss to the Pacers, Westbrook had a 54-9-8 performance while shooting 21-43 (.488), committing 2 turnovers and having a plus/minus of -4. Westbrook was universally mocked for his 43 shot attempts and his performance was used as an example of everything that is wrong with basketball.

Less than two months later on June 4th in a loss to the Warriors in game one of the NBA Finals, James had a 44-8-6 performance while shooting 18-38 (.474), committing 4 turnovers and having a plus/minus of -3. He was revered for his effort and commended for his bravery to take 38 shots. To really drive the point home, I will put their performances side by side:

54-9-8, 21-43 (.488), 2 TOV, -4
44-8-6, 18-38 (.474), 4 TOV, -3

If James ever had one triple double season the media would use it as irrefutable proof that he is the undisputed greatest ever. Westbrook had four such seasons, including three in a row, and they were widely dismissed as him showing off and stat padding. Westbrook could have literally averaged a 100-point triple double for a season and, I swear, there would still be people in the media making snarky remarks while desperately trying to trivialize it.


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