SAN FRANCISCO – Unlike DeMarcus Cousins, whose ejection barely 90 seconds into the fourth quarter all-but ended Denver’s chances in Game 1, Nikola Jokic kept his cool.
He had reason to lose it, getting bodied and pushed on numerous occasions, after getting to the free-throw line twice despite taking 25 shots in the Nuggets’ 123-107 loss, yet he didn’t.
Asked after the game whether he could tell a difference between regular-season officiating and postseason officiating, Jokic proved adept once again.
“My friend, I think I’m going to get fined if I answer,” Jokic said. “So I can’t. I mean, is it a little bit more chippy? Yes, but then, I cannot answer.”
For the most part, the Warriors opted to guard Jokic straight-up, only occasionally sending late double-teams to fluster the reigning MVP into a 12-for-25 shooting night. While his 25-point, 10-rebound, six-assist night represented quality production, it wasn’t overwhelming. And unless the Nuggets’ 3-point shooters start connecting on more than 31% of their attempts, capitalizing on Jokic’s kick-outs, it’s a line the Warriors are more than comfortable conceding.
Kevon Looney, the Warriors’ starting center, was allowed to be physical with him, as was Draymond Green, who eventually shifted over to help. On occasion, Jokic pled his case but to little avail.
“His jersey was getting pulled out a lot,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who was also diplomatic with his answers.
“That’s something we’ll look at the film to see what they’re doing because they’re doing a really effective job of keeping him off the foul line.”
On the night, the Warriors enjoyed 29 free-throw attempts to just 13 from Denver.
“Definitely wasn’t aggressive enough,” said Will Barton. “They were attacking, they were getting all the loose balls, 50-50 balls, second-chance points, offensive rebounding. They were just beating us to the punch tonight. When you play that way, usually you get the whistle in your favor.”
The Nuggets might’ve had a legitimate gripe if there weren’t glaring discrepancies in other areas, too. The Nuggets got killed on second-chance points – including a particularly damning stretch of five offensive rebounds in the decisive third quarter – and were “horrendous” at communicating in the second quarter, according to Monte Morris.
Those are areas, ostensibly, the Nuggets can control, and will need to if they don’t want to head back to Denver down 2-0 following Monday’s Game 2.
Though frustrated by the whistle, Jokic wasn’t dejected at Saturday’s result. After the game, he even cracked a mild joke that the Nuggets had a tendency to drop Game 1s.
“The pressure is not on us,” he said. “We are underdogs here, but we need to act like dogs, if that makes sense.”