Nikola Jokic is once again criticized for being a negative defender when on the court following loss to Dame and the Blazers at home.
The Portland TrailBlazers stepped into the high altitude city of Denver and stomped on Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets during Game 1 of the first round of the Playoffs. The Nuggets and Blazers were both keeping the game quite interesting for about 3 and a half quarters but eventually could not keep up with Jusuf Nurkic down low and the 3 guards that they boast on the perimeter.
Damian Lillard carved up the Nuggets defense by dropping 34 points and a Playoff career high, 13 assists to help lead the Blazers to a 123-109 victory to steal homecourt advantage from the 3rd seeded Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic played relatively well on the offensive end of the floor in terms of generating points for himself as he had 34 on 52% shooting. However, when it comes to the skill he’s lauded for the most, his playmaking; the well seemed to have dried up for the ‘Joker’ in that aspect as he dished out a measly 1 assist during the 35 minutes he stayed the court.
Nikola Jokic’s defense is what led to the Nuggets’ downfall against Damian Lillard and the Blazers.
The 2021 MVP has been decided for about 2 months now. Nikola Jokic is the definitive MVP of this league this season as he had perhaps the greatest season on the offensive end of the floor by a center since Shaq in 2000. What has Jokic doubters up in arms about his MVP candidacy is the fact that he is still not an above average defender.
Jokic has made up for his lack of lateral quickness when switching onto guards by his quick hands in passing lanes. However, having a couple steals a game isn’t going to make up for consistently dropping on every screen, giving Portland’s shooters room to shoot.
Bench boss Michael Malone employed a heavy dose of drop coverage in Dame-Nurk pick n rolls, a strategy that simply does not work as the former can simply raise up for quick trigger 3. in the cases where Jokic tried to fight through the screen, he lumbered into the paint while Nurkic went in strong for the slam.
Knowing how well Lillard uses screen PnRs, Jokic needs to adapt to the pace at which Dame plays at in terms of making quick decisions on whether to roll to the rim with Nurkic or Enes, or to go over screens to contest shots from beyond the arc.