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NBA Playoffs: Nikola Jokić tortures Timberwolves as Nuggets win crucial Game 5

Before judging Rudy Gobert, the NBA defensive player of the year who just allowed Nikola Jokić to score 40 points in a pivotal Game 5, ask yourself a question.

How would it be You guard the Denver Nuggets superstar if you were 7 feet tall with Gobert’s agility and wingspan? If you have an answer, you’re either wrong or you need to call the Minnesota Timberwolves ASAP.

They could certainly use the help after a 112-97 loss that gave the Nuggets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals, a series in which Minnesota once led 2-0 and looked unstoppable. A must-see Game 6 in Minneapolis awaits you on Thursday.

Getting back to Jokić’s question, let’s go over some highlights and see if we can figure out what Gobert should have done differently on a night in which the MVP dropped 40 on 15 of 22 shooting with 13 assists kills, seven rebounds and – take a deep breath here – zero turnovers.

Here, Gobert matches Jokić step for step and finally forces him into an awkward hook shot, which he achieves.

Here he meets it in the paint with a trailing Kyle Anderson and leaves only a split-second window in which a shot is even possible. Jokić, of course, finds that window and shoots.

Here he has to follow Jokić to the perimeter and has to stay with him due to lack of viable help to the defense waiting for them in the paint. Gobert gives up and commits a mistake which unbalances him. Jokić makes contact, then… and-1.

All of this happened in the span of about six minutes, in a 16-point, four-assist third quarter.

Then came the dagger in the fourth quarter, when Gobert had his hand on Jokic’s face for the entire shot.

Gobert is one of the best defensive players in NBA history, a guy whose presence in the paint alone can make a defense great. When given the Timberwolves’ supporting cast, he anchored the NBA’s best defense during the regular season.

The problem for the Timberwolves, and for every team remaining in the playoffs, and for every team hoping to challenge for the title over the next few years, is that a fully functional Jokić seems like a problem without a solution, even when Gobert give it the closest thing to an answer key. What do you do when a 7-footer has the best court vision and basketball IQ the NBA has ever seen in a big man, combined with 284 pounds of bulk, shooting touch and hands the fastest in the West?

Minnesota appeared to be on the verge of solving it early in the series, then lost all momentum. They entered Game 5 without veteran Mike Conley and saw Karl-Anthony Towns struggle with an apparent leg injury in the second quarter.

Honestly, it looked like a win when the Timberwolves went into halftime with just six points, considering they had turned it over 11 times while Anthony Edwards was 1 of 8 from the field and Towns and Naz Reid had foul trouble. It appeared to be a turning point when they scored the first seven points of the third quarter to briefly take the lead.

Denver quickly responded with a 9-2 score as Jokić got to work. Carnage ensues.

News Source : sports.yahoo.com
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