Home Sports NBA Playoffs: Nikola Jokić tortures Timberwolves as Nuggets win pivotal Game 5

NBA Playoffs: Nikola Jokić tortures Timberwolves as Nuggets win pivotal Game 5

0 comment
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 in Denver (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Before you judge Rudy Gobert, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year who just allowed Nikola Jokić to score 40 points in a pivotal Game 5, ask yourself a question.

How could you Protect the Denver Nuggets superstar if you were seven feet tall with Gobert’s agility and wingspan? If he has an answer, he’s either wrong or he needs to get on the phone with the Minnesota Timberwolves ASAP.

They could certainly use the help after a 112-97 loss that gave the Nuggets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference, a series in which Minnesota once led 2-0 and seemed unstoppable. A sixth game awaits us on Thursday that we must win in Minneapolis.

Getting back to the Jokić question, let’s go over some highlights and see if we can figure out what Gobert should have done differently on a night where the MVP scored 40 points on 15-of-22 shooting with 13 assists, seven rebounds and… let’s take deep breath here: zero turnovers.

Here, Gobert matches Jokić step for step and finally forces him into an awkward hook shot, which he takes.

Here, he finds it in the paint with Kyle Anderson behind him and leaves only a split-second window in which a shot is possible. Jokić, of course, finds that window and shoots.

Here, they have to follow Jokić to the perimeter and have to stay with him since there is no viable help defense waiting for them in the paint. Gobert basically gives up and commits a foul that knocks him off balance. Jokić makes contact, then… and-1.

All of that was in the span of about six minutes, in a 16-point, four-assist third quarter.

Then came the dagger in the fourth quarter, when Gobert held his hand to his face throughout the entire shot.

Gobert is one of the best defensive players in NBA history, a guy whose presence in the paint can alone make a defense great. When he was given the Timberwolves’ supporting cast, he anchored the NBA’s best defense during the regular season.

The problem for the Timberwolves, and for all the teams left in the playoffs, and for all the teams hoping to compete for the title in the coming years, is that a fully functional Jokić seems to be an unsolvable problem, even with Gobert gives the opportunity. as close as you can get to an answer key. What do you do when a 7-footer has the best court vision and basketball IQ the NBA has ever seen from a big man, combined with 284-pound bulk, a shooting touch and the tightest hands? rapids of the West?

Minnesota seemed close to figuring it out early in the series, but then lost all momentum. They entered Game 5 without veteran Mike Conley and watched Karl-Anthony Towns struggle with an apparent leg injury in the second quarter.

Honestly, it felt like a win when the Timberwolves entered halftime trailing by just six points, considering they had turned the ball over 11 times while Anthony Edwards was 1 of 8 from the field and Towns and Naz Reid dealt with foul trouble. It seemed like a turning point when they scored the first seven points of the third quarter to briefly take the lead.

Denver soon responded with a 9-2 run and Jokić went to work. The killing continued.

You may also like