Nikola Jokic says he knew 3 that stunned Warriors was going in


SAN FRANCISCO — Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon inbounded the ball to center Nikola Jokic with 3.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors and the score tied.

Jokic took three dribbles down the right side of the court and then launched a 39-foot 3-pointer over the head of Warriors center Kevon Looney.

From the vantage point of the Nuggets bench, it looked dead on.

“As it left his hands, all the coaches in the back were saying, ‘That’s on line. That’s going in,'” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

“I don’t know if it was something in my intuition or what, but I knew we weren’t going to OT. I knew Joker was going to hit that shot,” forward Peyton Watson said.

And he did. Jokic’s shot banked off the glass and rattled in, sealing the Nuggets’ 130-127 win over the Warriors. Even Jokic knew it was going in.

“That was the last option with that play,” Jokic said. “I just took a shot. I think those shots are the easiest shots to take. You don’t have any other options. So actually, when I felt it, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to bank this.’ You can see the flight of the ball, and I just knew I was going to bank it.”

That was the sealing shot on a 25-4 Nuggets run over the final 6:45 of the game, including a 13-0 run.

“The thing with Nikola, I love the fact that he gets to his spot, he gets set and he just shoots his shot,” Gordon said. “He doesn’t let the defense alter it at all. When he shoots his shot, there is always a chance he’ll make it.”

Jokic finished with 34 points on 13-of-15 shooting, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Gordon added 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting, and guard Jamal Murray had 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting.

But heading into the fourth, Denver trailed by 18, after the Warriors outscored the Nuggets 44-24 in the third quarter.

The Nuggets said they expected Golden State to throw its best punch at them, especially after they scored 70 points in the first half, 42 of which came in the paint — the most points the Warriors have allowed in a first half this season.

The Warriors’ third quarter was one of their best periods of the season. Their 75% shooting from the field was also their best mark in any quarter so far, and their +20 points differential was their second-best in any quarter (+21 in the third against the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 24).

Gordon said the Nuggets never hung their heads. During each timeout they were positive, pushing the mentality of one stop, one score, one stop, one score until they could even the playing field.

Malone said he was most proud of that mindset and his team’s ability to withstand Golden State’s push.

“They came out in the third quarter very aggressive, and we didn’t match that. They had us on our heels,” Malone said. “I said, ‘OK, enough is enough. Our backs are against the ball. We have to go now,’ and then we became the aggressor. We became the team getting stops, pushing, attacking, we became more physical.

“The most aggressive team is going to win. … I felt like when the game was on the line, we were the more aggressive team.”

This is the seventh time this season the Warriors had a lead of 10 or more points and still lost. It’s their fourth time with a lead of at least 18 points.

“The defense was amazing in the fourth,” Jokic said. “We didn’t want to give up. We could easily have excuses to lose that game. … But the guys didn’t drop their heads. We were really aggressive. They scored just four points. That’s really, really good defense, especially against that team.”

Arguably, the most important defensive play of the night came just seconds before Jokic’s game-winning shot.

With 6.2 seconds remaining, Murray intercepted an attempted cross-court pass from Warriors guard Stephen Curry.

“Jamal read that situation so well,” Jokic said.

Malone tried to call timeout immediately but wasn’t awarded it until after Murray had taken a dribble. So, the Nuggets were forced to take the ball out three-quarters of the way down the court.

Malone had three plays in mind. The first was going to be Murray on the strong side on the sideline. The second was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope flying off of Jokic at halfcourt. The third was Gordon hitting Jokic, and hoping the two-time MVP and reigning Finals MVP could make something happen.

The last is what occurred. But there was no panic, especially from Jokic, as he hunted his shot with less than four seconds to find it.

“I wish I could tell you [that’s how I drew it up]. But that’s just a great player making a great play,” Malone said. “Nikola lives for those moments. And it’s great and joyful to watch a player of his talent go out there and make the plays that he makes.”

Source link

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *