The current MVP of the NBA left no stone unturned.
Playing in his first game since exiting last year’s disappointing post-season – and since becoming a father – Nikola Jokic did what he always does. He dominated the game with his experience and his touch, setting Denver’s offense despite missing the team’s entire training camp in San Diego.
Was he proving he was good enough to leave the monotony of training camp on a yearly basis? who’s to say?
The Nuggets’ 118-116 loss against the Warriors in their second pre-season game might not have mattered in the grand scheme of things, but the Joker’s arrival was a happy reminder that he took the off-season seriously.
Here’s what sets it apart from Wednesday’s case, in addition to allowing 21 3-pointers Denver’s defense.
MVP in house: In 16 minutes of the first half, Jokic scored 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals. He buried 3-of-4 from the 3-point line. If their teammates were able to knock something open, they would have some more money.
But the off-season did nothing to hinder Jokic’s vision. His departure was in mid-season form. He gave good shots to prepare teammates for the greats. He kicked the ball forward in transition. He tossed his patentless no-look ropes into the corner, and he surveyed the baseline for cutters and duck-ins.
On one occasion, he found Jeff Greene walking around the baseline, but the newcomer wasn’t ready for the look.
When he held the ball in his hands, Jokic outplayed Golden State’s Draymond Green on several occasions. His touch from outside the arc or anywhere inside the paint was sublime.
Before the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said the only thing stopping the team from practicing last week was a handful of actions based on Jokic. Outside of that, it was business as usual for Jokic and the Nuggets. With no reason to pursue MVP, Malone sat him down for a full second.
House of Horrors: After Jamal Murray and Will Barton were seriously injured last April, both times at the Warriors Chase Center, Malone called the arena haunted.
“We lit some incense and sage to drive away all the evil spirits in this place, so hopefully it was a success,” he joked before the game.
The Nuggets kept both Barton (ankle) and Michael Porter Jr. (knee) out for Wednesday’s game, with none of the injuries considered serious.
Late in the second quarter, he appeared to avoid another injury after Green bit at an Austin Rivers pump-fake and then stabbed him in the ribs. The play made Green a staple, but Rivers remained in play.
Injuries to Barton and Porter meant significant playing time for Aaron Gordon, PJ Dossier and Jamie Michael Greene. The trio worked hard defensively and found their place on the offensive. Together, they combined for 41 points.
Repeat Bones: Wednesday’s game against the Warriors wasn’t nearly as eye-opening for Bones Hyland as the NBA debuted on Monday, but Hyland continued to impress.
With his aggressive, downhill mentality, Hyland reinforces that he isn’t afraid to attack the defense’s teeth. After flying past Clippers wing Luke Kennard on Monday, Hyland went straight on Golden State’s Juan Toscano-Anderson and managed to finish his length.
When asked about Hyland’s skill set, Malone told a story about Allen Iverson during his first summer league appearance in the NBA. When Iverson was asked to become a point guard and distributor, he questioned whether the coach had seen him play in college.
Needless to say, Malone wants Hyland to be who he is within the confines of a selfless, near-first offense.
“We’re not going to put him in a box,” Malone said.
Hyland finished the night with 11 points and six assists.