In the NBA Finals debut of Denver Nuggets’ star player Nikola Jokic, his selfless style of play proved to be the defining factor in the team’s Game 1 victory over the Miami Heat. Despite relinquishing his two-year reign as MVP to Joel Embiid this season,
Jokic showcased why he is deserving of another honor: Most Selfless Superstar (MSS). His sublime triple-double performance not only carved up the formidable Miami defense but also etched his name in the history books, leaving the Nuggets in early control of the series.
Jokic’s approach to the game was evident in his stat line for Game 1: a game-high 27 points, a game-high 14 assists, and 10 rebounds. His 14 assists set a record for the most in a Finals debut and the most by a center in any Finals game. This style of play perfectly exemplifies Jokic’s willingness to distribute the ball and create opportunities for his teammates.
During the post-game interview, Jokic humbly stated, “I don’t force it. I never force it. It was a couple of guys that had it going, [Aaron Gordon] was playing really well, and we had an advantage there. I just take whatever the game gives me.”
Jokic’s ability to read the defense and make the right play was on full display in Game 1. He orchestrated the offense with precision, exploiting Miami’s defense with his passing ability. His six assists in the first quarter alone helped the Nuggets establish a commanding 27-18 lead.
Miami’s reluctance to play zone defense stemmed from their fear of being dissected by Jokic’s passing prowess. As a result, Jokic’s teammates benefited from his pinpoint passes, shooting an impressive 10 of 12 on his assists in the first half.
The Beauty Of Nikola Jokic
According to MSN, Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone commended Jokic’s ability to take what the defense gives him, asserting, “That’s the beauty of Nikola.” Malone further emphasized that Jokic derives more satisfaction from making plays for others than scoring himself.
Whether Jokic scored 27 points or not, his primary concern was the team’s success, as he expressed, “He cares that we’re up 1-0.” Jokic’s selfless style of play opened up opportunities for his teammates, particularly Jamal Murray, who contributed 26 points and 10 assists in Game 1.
Together, they became the first teammates since Magic Johnson and James Worthy in 1987 to record 25 points and 10 assists each in an NBA Finals game. Murray attested to Jokic’s unselfishness, stating, “That’s just the way he plays the game. If everybody else is scoring, then there’s no need to force it. He’s a great passer, great facilitator.”
Jokic’s Impact On Denver’s Basketball Culture
Jokic’s selfless play and team-first ethos have had a profound impact on the Denver Nuggets’ basketball culture. His passing ability and willingness to involve his teammates have become contagious, permeating the entire team.
While Jokic humbly deflects credit, attributing the team’s success to everyone’s contributions, there is no denying the influence he has had in instilling a cohesive and selfless brand of basketball in Denver. The fluidity and movement within the Nuggets’ offense are testaments to their collective buy-in.