The Denver Nuggets accomplished something they hadn’t in nearly nine years in their beatdown of the Indiana Pacers on Thursday in London.
Denver defeated Indiana 140-112, marking the first time the Nuggets hung 140 or more in a game since Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson led them to a 168-116 win over the Seattle SuperSonics (R.I.P) on March 16, 2008.
The Nuggets don’t have a pure scorer like Anthony or Iverson on this roster. But what they do have is Nikola Jokic. Denver’s offense has transformed from good to great since head coach Mike Malone made Jokic the team’s starting center in mid-December.
Denver is scoring 114.3 points per 100 possessions in 13 games since Dec. 15. That’s second in the NBA in that stretch of games. It’s also right on par with the 113.3 points per 100 possessions the Golden State Warriors — you know those guys out west who might be the greatest collection of offensive talent ever? — are averaging for the season.
The Nuggets are an offensive juggernaut since making Jokic the focal point of their offense. Check out these splits before he was the starting center and after.
Denver has started to run its offense through their 21-year-old big man, and its scoring has ballooned as a result of it.
In transition, Jokic is skilled enough to handle the ball and has the vision and creativity to find teammates filling lanes for easy buckets.
When the game slows down, Jokic is a maestro at finding teammates who cut to the hoop. Shooting guard Gary Harris seems to score an easy bucket or two every game just by understanding when to cut and realizing that if there’s some daylight, Jokic will find him.
The chemistry between Jokic and Kenneth Faried is also excellent in the half court. Faried likes to take advantage of his defender falling asleep for a half second to hammer home the lobs Jokic serves up.
Jokic is a pass-first player. But he’s an impressive scorer when he does decide to hunt for his own shot a little bit more. He’s a capable jump shooter, and his touch around the rim is spectacular. He’s shooting a blistering 70.6 percent around the rim since being made the starting center.
Good things happen when Jokic touches the ball. The sample size is large enough now to say that the Nuggets are one of the best offensive teams in the NBA with him controlling it.
If the Nuggets (15-23) can correct some of their defensive issues — right now they’re second-to-last in defensive efficiency — they can make a run at the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
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