By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone wants to see his star center Nikola Jokic raising the level of his game to prevent a potential first-round exit in the Western Conference playoffs.
With the Nuggets down 1-2 to the Utah Jazz following two straight blowout losses, Malone said that Jokic has to contribute heavily and more on par with his All-Star standards, for the team to have any future during the postseason.
“I haven’t had a chance to speak with him yet. 15 points, six assists, five rebounds… those are OK numbers but from Nikola, obviously, we need more. Especially when Rudy Gobert’s having the game that he’s having,” Malone said after the defeat. Gobert had a double-double of 24 points plus 14 rebounds in his top-scoring performance since January.
“Rudy Gobert dominated us tonight,” Malone said. “Mike Conley dominated us tonight. We’re not going to go anywhere if Nikola and Jamal [Murray] combine for 27 points. The best players are stepping up and play well. Denver’s boss proceeded to make his own self-criticism.
“With that said, it’s not just on Jamal, it’s not just on Nikola,” Malone mentioned. “Everybody else has a job to do, myself included, and none of us are performing. I’m not coaching well enough, we’re not playing well enough and a lot has to change going to Game 4.”
“This is two games in a row we’re getting our ass kicked,” Malone added.
After registering 28-11-6 in the Game 1 win and 28-11-6 in the Game 2 loss, Jokic struggled to connect to the basket and finished Game 3 with 6-13 2-pointers and 2-6 3-pointers in the matchup vs. Gobert.
“To be honest, I think I just missed shots. I took all the shots I wanted… I think I took really good shots and I just missed shots,” Jokic commented on his offense against Gobert. “I mean he’s a great defender, a great player but I think I just missed shots.”
Game 4 in the series will be played on Sunday.
Photo: Getty Images