If the Spurs come with the same trap defense in Tuesday night’s Game 2, expect Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic to react the same way: Unselfishly.
Sure, Jokic could force a shot up against LaMarcus Aldridge and whichever Spurs guard is close enough to pester him, but that wouldn’t be in his basketball DNA.
It was for that reason that he wound up with 14 assists in his playoff debut on Saturday.
“Maybe I could’ve been a bit (more) aggressive but I didn’t want me being aggressive (to) disrupt our offense,” Jokic said Tuesday.
The offense generally flowed smoothly save for a few selfish possessions. The Nuggets missed numerous open looks and finished 6 for 28 from the 3-point line.
“We had a couple of wide-open looks, really wide-open looks, we didn’t make those,” Jokic said. “So if those shots would be, will be, there tonight, I will be really happy.”
The question heading into Game 2 becomes whether Spurs coach Gregg Popovich opts to change up the defensive coverage on Jokic, Denver’s central nervous system. The other interesting wrinkle that was apparent in Game 1 was that San Antonio only sent two defenders toward Jokic once the Spurs’ big men, Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl, got into foul trouble. Popovich wanted the ball out of Jokic’s hands to avoid a more precarious position.
Appropriately, Popovich kept those clues close to the vest since Saturday’s win. But from Denver’s perspective, there’s been a consistent theme of wanting to push the tempo in Game 2.
“I mean, if we get (to) run I think it’s the best way how we can attack them, don’t let their defense set up, don’t let them get into their system, just passing the ball, (setting) the pace, I think we can make some confusion in their defense,” Jokic said.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone has preached all season that he trusts Jokic to make the right basketball play. If the Spurs show him bodies again, Jokic is programmed to release to the open man.
“I mean, I’m good. I’m fine with (finding the pass when) the open guy, he’s wide open, so I don’t have any problems with passing the ball,” Jokic said. “If I force it, maybe it’s a bad shot, so I’m just going to pass it to (an open shooter), and that’s how we’re supposed to play.”
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