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How Nikola Jokic dismantled Rudy Gobert and the Timberwolves

Harrison Wind Avatar
May 15, 2024

First, Nikola Jokic accepted the MVP award from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Then, he made all his doubters, skeptics, and cynics look like absolute fools. Again.

Jokic played what I think was the best game of his career in Game 5 of the Denver Nuggets‘ first-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It was an all-time performance. It was a game for the ages. A masterpiece.

Jokic finished with 40 points on a ridiculous 15-22 shooting to go with 7 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and 0 turnovers in 41 minutes. He’s the first player to score or assist on 70+ points in a playoff game without committing a turnover (since turnovers were first tracked in 1977-78).

And let me remind you: This was in a pivotal Game 5 of a 2-2 series against the 4-time and current Defensive Player of the Year, a historically good defense with the exact personnel that you’d want to guard Jokic, and an opposing star who can’t stop getting compared to Michael Jordan.

“I’m not even entirely sure what I just watched,” Aaron Gordon said.

Jokic had 12 in the first quarter, seven in the second, and then 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists in a tour de force of a third where he dismantled Rudy Gobert and the Timberwolves’ defense.

He played with the power and determination of one of the greats. But that’s who Jokic is.

“He had 40, he missed seven shots on the Defensive Player of the Year, and it felt like he had 50,” Jamal Murray said.

It’s incredible just how quickly this series has flipped. Less than two weeks ago, the Nuggets’ obituary was getting written. Denver trailed 0-2 in the series and looked like it had no hope vs. Minnesota’s swarming defense.

Then the Nuggets, Jokic, and Murray woke up.

Denver is one win away from another Conference Finals appearance and we’re back to talking about Jokic as one of the best players of all time.

Nikola Jokic receives the MVP trophy.
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets’ defense was also superb in their Game 5 win. Michael Malone tweaked his scheme on Anthony Edwards and Denver sent double-teams his direction all game. Edwards finished with just 18 points on 5-15 shooting. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s defense was phenomenal all night.

Aaron Gordon, the Nuggets’ true X-factor, tallied 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. Murray wasn’t great but was good. His 16 points were enough.

But this game will be remembered first and foremost for Jokic’s greatness.

Gobert is an all-time defensive player. He’s going to go down as one of the greatest defenders in NBA history. Jokic made him look like a scrub.

Jokic is locked in now. He’s focused on the task ahead. He knows what it’s going to take.

I don’t think the Nuggets took the Lakers seriously in Round 1. I don’t think they ever felt truly threatened in that series — even though they probably should have. It took a doomsday Game 2 loss to the Timberwolves for this team to awaken.

On Thursday in Minnesota, the Nuggets can complete one of the more improbable playoff turnarounds in recent history.


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