2019 NBA Playoffs: Jokic isn’t joking around

NBA Playoff results: May 8, 2019

3. Philadelphia 76ers (89) – 2. Toronto Raptors (125)

3. Portland Trail Blazers (98) – 2. Denver Nuggets (124)

What happened in the Playoffs today:

1. Jokic continues his coming out party

What a season it’s been for Nikola Jokic. He gets named to his first All-Star Team and the Nuggets get back to the Playoffs behind his leadership. But even after 82 games and change, there’s still a lot that Jokic has yet to prove.

There were questions about how well his unorthodox game will translate in the Playoffs. Jokic is the center of the Nuggets offense. He’s a big man with a guard’s skill set playing in a guard-centric era. How will he be able to adjust when the defense clamps down on him?

Pretty well apparently.

Jokic put up big numbers (33-18-14 in 65 minutes) in a 4OT Game 3 loss to the Blazers. He bounced back to lead the Nuggets in Game 4 with another triple-double (21-12-11). Jokic continued his dominance with another big game in Game 5. He scored 25 points on 55% shooting while hauling down 19 rebounds and dishing out six assists.

Jokic continued his excellent work on the elbows. He was attacking from that position early in the game, getting to the hoop with janky drives. In the second period, he did his work in the paint, grabbing offensive boards and scoring over the defenders on resets. In the third period, he showcased his playmaking as Denver pulled away.

Jokic is on a hot streak in the latter part of this Blazers series. He’s averaging 26.3 points, 16.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists in the past three games. He’s arguably having a better run getting his buckets at a crazy 53% shooting rate. The Nuggets have won two straight games after that that heartbreaking Game 3 loss.

We’ve seen the same kind of stretch from Jokic before. He closed out the Spurs in the first round with an impressive performance. In the final four games of the series against San Antonio Jokic averaged 27.3 points, 12.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists. He got his numbers efficiently, shooting 46.2% and had only five turnovers total during that stretch. Denver went 3-1 during that run.

The Nuggets are now one game away from making it to the Conference Finals. That’s because Jokic is carrying them in this year’s Playoffs.

2. Raptors repay Kawhi

After Kawhi Leonard did a lot of heavy lifting in the first four games, it was the Raptors turn to take the load off their superstar. Leonard averaged 38 points, not scoring less than 33 points in the first four games. In Game 5, it was his teammates that came out big.

Leonard had 21 points and 13 rebounds, still solid numbers. But five other Raptors finished the game in double digits.

Pascal Siakam led all scoerers with 25 points. He didn’t shoot particularly well but Siakam stayed aggressive and because of that he got to the line for nine of his point totals.

Kyle Lowry has been mocked after his performance in Game 3. But he bounced back nicely in the last two games. He finished Game 5 with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. Coach Nick Nurse’s supersized line-up with both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka playing together worked once again. Gasol had 11 points on 66% shooting while Ibaka added 10 points off the bench.

On the other end, the Sixers starters continued to struggle. Dubbed as one of the best starting fives in the league, the top five players of Philadelphia were thoroughly outplayed in this game. Embiid only had 13 points on 10 shots while Ben Simmons could only muster seven points.

The Raptors are now one game away from breaking through to the Conference Finals after years of heartbreak. They just need another balanced effort from their entire team to offset the talent of the Sixers.

Photo from Getty Images