DENVER — Nikola Jokic may be more of a setup man for the healthy Nuggets this year than in his back-to-back MVP seasons, but the step-back three-pointer he made to beat Orlando at the buzzer for Denver on Sunday night was just another example of the late-game brilliance he’s flashed all season for his team.
The jumper was the only bucket Jokic made in the entire fourth quarter to go with his two assists, but that type of balance is what makes Denver so tricky to deal with late in clutch games, said Matt Moore of the Locked On Nuggets podcast.
“Nikola is one of the most clutch players we’ve ever seen, and it kind of continues to be true,” Moore said.
Moore went on to list off the Nuggets’ dominant statistics in clutch games (five-point contests in the final five minutes), noting that Denver has outscored opponents by 68 points in 74 minutes of clutch time in games Jokic has played and has a 12-5 record in those games.
The Nuggets were actually outscored by the Magic in the fourth quarter on Sunday night, as forward Aaron Gordon missed a couple late free throws and the team went cold from three. But in large part because of the talent of Jokic and his teammates, Denver came away with a big win anyway to stay atop the Western Conference.
“Offensively, I was so frustrated that they couldn’t get good looks, they just made tough ones,” said Locked On Nuggets co-host Adam Mares.
Denver has the second-best efficiency rating in the clutch this season behind Brooklyn, and by far the best assist rate in those moments thanks in large part to the dominance of Jokic. Next they face Minnesota in a nationally televised matchup on Wednesday night at 8 p.m.