Nikola Jokic wasn’t quite the same monster in the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers as he was the series before against the Clippers. Dwight Howard thinks a lot of that has to do with the mental games he played with his opponent.
Howard joined Etan Thomas’ podcast “The Rematch” for an interview and talked about the tactics he used to get in Jokic’s head.
“Well, the crazy part about it is that we were all staying in the same hotel,” Howard said, via Lakers Daily. “For me, I just felt like it was mental warfare and I wanted to get in his head in any way possible. Their meal room was actually across the hallway from our meal room. So we saw them every day and I would go in there and I would speak to everybody. And every time I saw the (Jokic), I would be like, ‘You ready for the game tonight? You ready for tonight?’”
Howard shared with Thomas the reason why he wanted to mess with Jokic.
“I was just trying to get in his head because I think he’s a really good player and sometimes the battle is won off the court,” Howard said. “That was the biggest thing — I just wanted to get in his head. I knew he was a key for them to win the championship and he got them there. So, my thing was to be physical with him. Get in his head and push him around a little bit.”
Howard believes that his work was done after the second game of the Western Conference Finals. By then, he had already established himself with Jokic and messed with the Nuggets big man enough where he could tone down the talking.
“Every time I stood up on the bench, he was looking over there. Every time he got ready to go into the game, I would run to the scorer’s table just to tell him, ‘Hey, every time you get in, I’m right here with you.’ And it worked out great for our team and also myself. It was very tough because that was a different role for me, so I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn from that and it worked out well.”
Jokic averaged 26.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game in the Nuggets’ series against the Jazz. He averaged 24.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game against the Clippers. But against the Lakers, Jokic averaged 21.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. He and the Nuggets were probably gassed after coming back to beat the Clippers in seven games, but maybe Howard’s strong play had a little bit to do with Jokic not dominating to quite the same extent.
Even with Howard being a self-anointed Jokic stopper, that wasn’t enough for the Lakers to bring him back. They slow-played Howard, so the center ended up signing with Philadelphia.
Nikola Jokic had a big reason to celebrate on Saturday.
The Denver Nuggets center married longtime girlfriend (now wife) Natalija Macesic. The wedding took place in Jokic’s hometown of Sombor in Serbia.
Jokic and Macesic have been together since 2013 when they were 18 years old.
Jokic, 25, was a second-round pick by the Denver Nuggets in the 2014 NBA Draft. He joined the NBA a year later at the age of 20 and began to show talent instantly. By his third year in the league, he was blossoming into a star. Jokic averaged 19.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game this season and made his second straight All-Star team. He helped lead his Nuggets to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. The Nuggets made the conference finals, where they lost to the Lakers.
The Serbian big man is known for his good sense of humor in addition to his strong play.
Count Dirk Nowitzki as a big fan of Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic.
Jokic has been compared to Nowitzki in some circles as a skilled big man who can score from anywhere and break down opposing defenses. Nowitzki is flattered by the comparison, but suggested Jokic might be even better than he was in some aspects.
“Damn. That’s a compliment,” Nowitzki said of comparisons to Jokic via text to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. “I wish I had his skill set. His passing is so good it’s a joke. I unfortunately always wanted to score and not pass.”
It’s funny, and Nowitzki is being his usual understated self. Still, there’s obviously a healthy degree of admiration here. Jokic has had a breakout postseason, and people like Nowitzki are taking notice — if they hadn’t already.
Nowitzki will keep shying away from the comparisons. He’s a pretty humble guy, after all.
Dwight Howard has managed to play a key role for the Los Angeles Lakers during the Western Conference Finals, but his extracurricular antics nearly got him tossed from Game 3 on Tuesday night.
Howard has come off the bench throughout the series and tried to get under the skin of Denver Nuggets star big man Nikola Jokic. While it has seemingly worked at times, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports that Howard nearly crossed the line in the Lakers’ Game 3 loss — at least in the eyes of an official.
Howard picked up a technical foul early in the second quarter for tossing the ball in the air in frustration over a foul call. Then, when Jerami Grant went to the free throw line, Haynes says Howard said something in the direction of the officiating crew that prompted official Marc Davis to shout, “Hey, cut that out now! Are you serious? I’ve heard that twice now. Twice. Cut it out now!”
It’s unclear what Howard said, but a second technical foul would have resulted in an ejection. Howard appeared to lose focus after that, as Rajon Rondo had to clap to get his attention to get in proper position on the second free throw. Haynes notes that Rondo has been in Howard’s ear about toning down some of his antics, which were on display when he was jawing with Jokic on Tuesday night.
Howard went out of his way to taunt the Nuggets after Anthony Davis hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer in Game 2. Between that and his dust-up with an official on Tuesday, Howard may have to tread lightly for the rest of the series.
Nikola Jokic had a great joke for his head coach Michael Malone prior to Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday night.
Tuesday marked Malone’s 49th birthday. Jokic joked after his team’s series-clinching win over the Los Angeles Clippers that he promised Malone a gift either way.
“Before the game I told him, ‘Coach, I am going to give you a really good present. I am going to get you home or I am going to get you a Western Conference Finals,'” Jokic said.
He’s right: either way, Malone was going to be a winner.
Being in the NBA Bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. for several weeks no doubt wore on those involved. The moment any participant can go home probably feels like a big relief. But the even better prize was coming back to beat the Clippers and reach the conference finals.
Most of the focus (and the harsh jokes) have been on the Clippers, but the Nuggets deserve recognition for their series comeback and achievement … and for Jokic’s jokes.
Nikola Jokic has elevated his game in the postseason thus far, and Patrick Beverley believes the Denver Nuggets star has done that in part by putting pressure on officials.
After Jokic scored 32 points in Monday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Beverley compared the big man’s game to Luka Doncic’s. He said Jokic does a lot of “flailing” like Doncic.
Jokic has only shot 10 free throws through the first three games against the Clippers, so it’s not as if he gets every call. Still, his presence in the paint is one of the main reasons the Nuggets defeated the Utah Jazz in seven games last year. It also gives them a shot against L.A.
Jokic recently provided a great reason for why he has been so effective on offense. Beverley seems to think the officials help with that, though his comments were more of a compliment than anything.
Nikola Jokic had a huge performance to lead the Denver Nuggets to a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night, but the big man remains as humble as ever.
Following his 26-point performance in an extremely important Game 2, Jokic was asked by a reporter how it is that he manages to stay so patient on offense. The 7-footer said it’s because he doesn’t have a choice.
Jokic is just being modest, of course. He’s been a force thus far in the postseason. Jokic grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked three shots on Saturday in addition to the 26 points. He averaged 26.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in a seven-game series against the Utah Jazz to open the playoffs.
The Nuggets were blown out by the Clippers in Game 1, so they would have been in a massive hole if they didn’t respond on Saturday. Jokic stepped up when the team needed him most, and he lived up to the flattering comparison Gregg Popovich recently made for him.
A strange clock error at the end of overtime nearly cost the Denver Nuggets dearly in their game against the Utah Jazz.
With the Nuggets trailing by two and 3.4 seconds left in overtime, Denver drew up a play to get Nikola Jokic to the basket quickly to score. It worked to perfection, as Jokic was able to drive and score to tie the game. There was just one problem: the clock didn’t start on the inbound.
The officials went to the monitor to try to determine how much time should have come off the clock before Jokic’s basket, and subsequently whether it should have counted or not. They ultimately determined that Jokic scored with 0.3 seconds left, tying the game and forcing double overtime.
Even more oddly, the clock actually started too early on Utah’s last-ditch attempt on the ensuing possession, meaning it needed to be replayed. Denver ultimately won the game 134-132 in double overtime.
Clock errors do happen in the NBA, sometimes at the end of big games. It’s unusual to see one that blatant at such a big spot that has such a major impact on the outcome of a game, though.
Gregg Popvich is officially a believer in the Church of Nikola Jokic.
Speaking on Wednesday after his San Antonio Spurs fell to the Denver Nuggets, Popovich offered a rather flattering player comparison for Jokic.
“He’s a reincarnation of Larry Bird,” said Popovich of the Nuggets All-Star big man, per Marc Stein of the New York Times.
Jokic dropped 25 points, four rebounds, and 11 assists in the win over the Spurs. He is indeed somewhat reminiscent of Bird for his passing ability for his size as well as his unique ability as a three-level scorer.
While the compliment is obviously some very high praise from Popovich, who has seen many decades worth of elite talents on the basketball court, we probably know of a slightly better reincarnation of Larry Legend out there.
Nikola Jokic’s weight has been a topic of interest among basketball fans over the past few months, but he’s not eager to make it a continual piece of conversation.
A photo of Jokic looking slimmer while attending an exhibition game in Europe went viral in June. Prior to that, Denver’s team president raved about Jokic’s fitness.
Jokic emerged from quarantine in the NBA Bubble in Orlando on Tuesday, and reporters got a chance to see him. They noticed he appeared to be in better shape than when he played.
Jokic said last year he preferred playing at around 275-280 pounds. As for his current weight? He didn’t disclose it and prefers to keep it that way.
Despite all the talk, Jokic says he’s only 3-5 pounds off of his weight when the season was suspended in March. The 25-year-old is averaging 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game for the Nuggets this season. The team will be the No. 3 seed in the West when the season resumes.
Jokic is not the only star player to lose weight during the time off.