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Nikola Jokic crushes the doubts in his big soft hands



Photo: David Zalubowski (AP)

Nikola Jokic was the first candidate for the beginning of spring to be skeptical. His youth, his spongy physique, the unprecedented comedy of his game, his occasional habit of becoming passive if he should have had more shots, his leadership of a No. 2 Nuggets national team that never felt like second-best in the West ̵

1; the were all grounds for suspicion among believers and unbelievers. Was any of this really real? At times even Jokic's teammates seemed to discover a touch of gimmicks, and came to him with particular enthusiasm .

So, this gimmick has evolved in the first eight games of Jokic's aftercare: 24.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.5 steals a night. That's better than his average season at every count. In terms of shooting, he is 50 percent off the ground, 37 percent of three, and 91 percent of the line, with 60 percent real shooting overall and unassailable at all levels. And Denver's doughy hero has also received a net rating of 6.3 after this tight seven-game series in the first round.

The survey of his last three boxing results is a journey: 43 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists in Game 6 as San Antonio turned off the lights; 21-15-10 in Game 7, to finally bury her; 37-9-6 in Game 1 against Portland on Monday night. The games took higher stakes and the big brioche did not collapse. he became even stronger. To make it as clear as possible: In a night that unleashed a highly efficient outbreak of Dame Lillard with 39 points, Nikola Jokic still remained the best player on the ground.

Granted, if you ask questions about Jokic's viability, these are not quite the tests that critics had in mind. San Antonio was not a good defense, and it was still a long time before Denver went on the offensive. perhaps only a quarter of the unconscious Jamal Murray separated them from an untimely exit. Portland is also not a good defense, especially not with Jusuf Nurkic on crutches and Enes Kanter filling the gap. Jokic would turn anyway and sneak past Kanter; There may not be much less in the league to keep the two-man Jokic-Murray game in space. Now that Kanter jerks his minute through a separate shoulder, the blazers seem to thin out where Denver can best use them. There is a disturbing amount of Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins on the monitors. In fact, this exhausted list might infuse a little too much self-confidence into the soft god:

I joke. He will continue to embarrass anyone whom Portland lays on the ground while providing high entertainment. There are structural reasons to believe that centers can not meet the same post-season value as perimeter players who initiate the offense. In the league, there has never been a center like Nikola Jokic, stylish and in line: a one-stop-shop for team-misconduct that creates reliable punches for themselves and everyone around them, and is versatile enough to meet the new conditions adapt to each round. If he leads Denver past Portland and wages a respectable fight in the West Final, Nikola Jokic's only question is where he is one of the NBA's absolute best players.


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