Marcus Smart defends Nikola Jokic in the post

Pregame Post-Ups: Defending a Jokic-Led Offense

Friday, December 6 - Nuggets at Celtics

Pregame – Defending a Jokic-Led Offense

BOSTON – Brad Stevens said matter-of-factly Friday night that Denver center Nikola Jokic is “the best passing big there is.”

Stevens made that comment, as well as others regarding the fifth-year big man, ahead of Boston’s rematch with Jokic and the Nuggets Friday night at TD Garden.

The Celtics fell to the Nuggets two weeks ago in Denver by a score of 96-92. Jokic recorded a triple-double during that game by tallying game highs of 16 rebounds and 10 assists to go along with 18 points. Jokic leads all big men with an average of 6.2 assists per game this season, and he ranked ninth in the league among all players last season with an average of 7.3 assists per game.

The big man’s performance two weeks ago was a firm reminder to the Celtics with regard to just how difficult the Nuggets are to defend when the ball is in Jokic’s hands.

“They’ll play with Jokic in the seam,” Stevens said while describing Denver’s offense. “They just make it really hard. Their guards are great about, once they sniff that you have bad body position, they back-cut.”

And when those guards find their cutting lanes, Jokic finds them for easy layups.

Stevens said that there is equal defensive responsibility amongst his team with regard to preventing such layups from happening tonight. Whoever is guarding Jokic must be in great position and with active hands when he has the ball. The same goes for the other four defenders who will be tracking Denver’s guards and forwards off the ball.

As Stevens commented, “It all works together.”

Such is the case whenever Denver has the ball – not just when Jokic has it – because that’s how much talent it has on its roster. Jokic isn’t the only player who can dribble, pass and shoot. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap lead a Nuggets group that just torched the Knicks for 129 points Thursday night in New York. They’re deep, and they’re dangerous.

Boston’s defense certainly has its hands full tonight, and it all starts with the best passing big man in the league in Jokic. That being said, the C’s limited Denver to 96 points two weeks ago. They’d be pleased if they can replicate a similar performance tonight.

- Marc D'Amico

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