4. Defensive game plan the right one
Nikola Jokic attempted one shot — a late 3-pointer that missed — as the Denver Nuggets lost Wednesday night to the Memphis Grizzlies, 89-87, in Memphis.
Since scoring 22 points on 20 shots on Hallowwen night in a one-point win at Chicago, Jokic had been much more focused on playing point rather than scoring them.
In the most recent four games leading into Friday’s matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, Jokic had taken only 18 shots, making seven and scoring 23 points, while dishing 31 assists — including 16 in a win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
Jokic had been in a funk since a controversial comment made after the win in Chicago, when he uttered an anti-gay slur in a postgame interview and was fined $25,000 by the NBA.
Coach Mike Malone was telling anyone who would listen going into Friday that Jokic needed to shoot more. Per Greg Logan of Newsday, Malone said:
"“We need to get a lot more shots for him. That’s on me. It’s on his teammates, but most importantly, it’s on Nikola to take that burden to set the tone early in the game. “It’s not him making a blatant attempt to say, ‘I’m not shooting the ball tonight.’ He’s trying to make the right plays.”"
So you had to have a hunch that Jokic would be aggressively looking to get to the basket Friday.
And he did, taking 22 shots en route to a 37-point performance that set a new season-high for Jokic, who had scored 35 points in a win over the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 20.
Brooklyn’s defensive game plan seemed to willingly accommodate that, with a caveat. Jokic is going to get his. But no one else will.
Jamal Murray was held to 16 points, below his season average coming in of 18.5 points per game. Paul Millsap ended with 11 points, right around his 11.7 average. Trey Lyles got 10, right around his 10.5 points per game average.
Gary Harris was smothered most of the night by Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, finishing with just four points on 1-for-11 shooting — far below his 18.5 per game average entering the game.
Besides Jokic, the only other Nugget to exceed his scoring average was reserve Monte Morris, who scored 15 points.
Jokic got his. The Nets got the win. That’s a trade-off they’ll take any time.