By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
“The win was nice but half an hour after that… it was just a win,” Jokic told media Saturday (27/5). “To be honest, I thought it’d be a much bigger feeling. I didn’t celebrate or.. whatever. I was just relaxing.”
Make no mistake, that was a big thing for the Nuggets – and Jokic as well – since the team will play in the championship series for the first time in the history of the franchise. They had never been this close to winning the ring.
It’s just that Jokic and the Nuggets have set the bar much-much higher and will only be wholly satisfied if they bring the Larry O’Brien trophy to Denver after the Finals are over.
“He wants to be a world champion,” Malone had said a day earlier. “And I think that’s what motivates Nikola Jokic as well as everybody else in this building.”
This “everybody else” includes guard Jamal Murray. After fully recovering from a torn ACL injury, the Canadian player is performing at the highest level, currently averaging 27.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.5 rebounds in the playoffs so far. He had 32.5 points in the four games vs. the Lakers.
Jokic praised Murray not only for his large offensive contribution but mostly for the energy that he brings to the floor and for retaining the same spirit, regardless of his shooting performances.
“He averaged 30+ points on a great percentage and it’s really hard to do with a high number of points,” Jokic said. “Not just his points. It’s his energy. I’ve always said that it’s his energy. He’s been our best player since round 1 and he’s stepping up in that direction. Even if he doesn’t make shots his energy is always good and I think that’s the best feeling for the guys around him. Yes, we know he can make shots and go for 50 but even when things don’t go his way, he’s still playing, still fighting. And that’s the best thing about him.”
The Nuggets will face either the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics in the Finals. The Heat are up 3-2 after beginning the series with three straight wins but the Celtics reacted with back-to-back victories and seem able to completely turn the semifinals around.
“I didn’t watch the fourth or fifth game,” Jokic said. “Whoever comes, we’ll be prepared. Both teams have a lot to offer. They switch one to five, and put bigger or smaller players on me or Jamal, to play with rotations and matchups, while Miami is much more aggressive, every game with them is fighting tooth and nail with a lot of pushing and contact….Both teams can surprise.”