It’s not enough that NBA teams have to contend with Nikola Jokic’s size and physicality in the post. Now they might have to watch out for long-range shots, too.
Thursday night against the Warriors, it appeared the Nuggets and Golden State would be headed to overtime in San Francisco. Jokic took the in-bounds pass from forward Aaron Gordon with over three seconds to play, and raced just past the half-court line before he was halted by center Kevon Looney. It appeared Jokic, who averages 1.1 3-pointers made per game, was bottled up.
Nonetheless, he heaved the shot up anyway. And to the dismay of Warriors’ fans, the 39-foot, jump-shot banked off the backboard and into the net, giving Denver the stunning 130-127 win.
— NBA (@NBA) January 5, 2024MORE: Why Jokic is considered NBA’s best player
The game-winner was Jokic’s second of his career — with the first having come on March 14, 2019 against the Mavericks, though that shot came from only 12 feet away. It was the third buzzer-beating shot this season.
According to Stathead, it was the longest made 3 of Jokic’s NBA career.
It should hardly shock fans at this point to know that the reigning NBA Finals MVP and winner of two of the past three NBA MVPs should have ice in his veins. But here’s a look at how his latest heroics propelled the Nuggets to a victory.
Nikola Jokic buzzer beaterJokic had already played the role of hero once, but there was still plenty of time left in the fourth quarter.
With 26 seconds left, Jokic knocked in a 6-foot jumpshot to tie the game at 127 all. But that still gave the Warriors plenty of time to go back down the court and re-take the lead Golden State held late in the contest.
Stephen Curry looked to make an acrobatic, cross-court pass from the wing to Andrew Wiggins, who was open in the corner. Curry just didn’t quite get enough air under it, and it was picked off by Jamal Murray over the middle of the court with 5.1 seconds remaining. It took time for the Nuggets to receive the timeout, but with 3.6 seconds left, they were granted time after Murray had established control with a dribble.
“Jamal read that situation so well,” Jokic said, per ESPN.
That winner was set up by Jamal Murray intercepting a pass from Steph Curry on what ended up being the Warriors’ final possession. pic.twitter.com/rosZqWGvds
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) January 5, 2024With possession, a handful of seconds and a chance to win, coach Michael Malone had a few options drawn up for what would be in store next. According to ESPN, the first was to get the ball to Murray along the sideline. The next option up would be for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to get the ball off Jokic from half court. If those wouldn’t work, it would just be up to Jokic.
“I wish I could tell you [that’s how I drew it up]. But that’s just a great player making a great play,” Malone said. “Nikola lives for those moments. And it’s great and joyful to watch a player of his talent go out there and make the plays that he makes.”
As Jokic’s shot left his hands, several on the court knew where it was headed. According to the Mercury News, Curry said “the basketball gods took over.” Warriors guard Brandin Podziemski said that “the way the momentum was going in that game, it had a good chance of going in.” Malone explained all the coaches described the shot as “on line,” with confidence it was headed for the net.
And, yes, even Jokic knew his 3 would work.
“I just took a shot. I think those shots are the easiest shots to take. You don’t have any other options,” Jokic said. “So actually, when I felt it, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to bank this.’ You can see the flight of the ball, and I just knew I was going to bank it.”
Nikola Jokic stats vs. Warriors30 points13-of-16 field goal shooting2-of-2 3-point shooting10 assists9 rebounds2 steals1 block4 turnoversNikola Jokic statsJokic is not exactly known for his long-range shooting ability. He averages just over 1 3-point make per game on over 3 attempts per game. He is known for scoring, however, averaging 26 points per game, which ranks 13th in the league.
26 points pr game12.2 rebounds per game9.1 assists per game1.1 3-pointers per game3.2 3-point attempts per game2.8 turnovers per game56.5 percent field goal shooting34.5 percent 3-point shooting82 percent free throw shooting