Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap finding rhythm together in season's final weeks
From NBA media reports
Before 2017-18 got started, the Denver Nuggets knew they’d be putting a lot of their hopes in a pair of former second-round picks: new veteran big man Paul Millsap and youngster Nikola Jokic. Those plans got altered early on, though, once Millsap suffered a left wrist injury that caused him to miss 44 games.
He returned to the mix in early March and, after shaking the rust off his game, has helped Denver stay in the thick of the playoff mix. As for Jokic, he’s been around all season. But he has faced the challenge of playing alongside Millsap and developing a chemistry with him as the playoff race heats up.
However, as Gina Mizell of The Denver Post points out, the big man duo has made up for lost time of late over the last few games:
“They’re my safety blanket,” coach Michael Malone said. “If one of those two are in the game at all times, we have somebody to play through and to kind of calm things down when they’re not going our way.”
Jokic and Millsap have combined to average 44.8 points, 18.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists over their past six games to anchor an offense currently without second-leading scorer Gary Harris due to a knee injury.
Though Jokic and Millsap have played well off each other — most notably while scoring 19 of Denver’s 30 points to build a double-digit lead in Friday’s overtime win at Oklahoma City — a substitution-pattern tweak by Malone is also benefiting both players. The coach now takes Jokic out at the six-minute mark of the first quarter and staggers him and Millsap at points throughout the middle of the game, ensuring that at least one of them is always on the floor. That uptick in production has also opened opportunities for perimeter shooters such as Jamal Murray, who is averaging 19.2 points over that same six-game stretch and dropped 18 of his 27 points after the third quarter in Sunday’s win.
Perhaps this is a glimpse of what the Jokic-Millsap combo could have been all along. Or perhaps it’s a glimpse of what’s in store as the Nuggets make their final postseason charge.
“He’s being more aggressive. I’m being more aggressive,” Millsap said. “My hand’s feeling better, and we’re just getting after it.”
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