BOSTON — After Nikola Jokic scored 43 of his 99 points in Denver’s potential loss against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden, Nugget coach Mike Malone said Jokic’s teammates needed to do more to support their superstar center.
He didn’t get exhausted, Malone said, pointing to the fact that Jokic scored only four of his 43 points in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night. He needs help. … We play twice in a row [on Wednesdays] and every night Nicola goes out and literally takes the team in hand. He just needs people to help him.
The Nuggets, who played without three regulars (Gary Harris, Will Barton and Paul Millsap) and two other rotational players (sixth man Monte Morris and winger PJ Dozier) on Tuesday, didn’t give much away against the Celtics. It almost didn’t matter, as Jokic hit his six shots in the first quarter for 15 points and added 14 in the second quarter and another 10 in the third.
But after coming back fourth in the race, he looked tired and missed some clean looks that could have propelled him to his second 50-point game of the season, while remaining a strong contender for the MVP title.
The night was not so pleasant for the rest of the Nuggets. Jamal Murray pitched well, finishing with 25 points, six rebounds and six assists, but he made nine turnarounds – more than half of Denver’s 17 saves.
And while playmaker Facundo Campazzo impressed from his first career start with 15 points and eight assists in 40 minutes of play, the rest of the Nuggets were just 8 for 23 overall, going 0 for 15 on 3-pointers off the pace.
Jamal tried to get him away, but he can’t have nine rotations on the road like our starting guard, Malone said. And he knows it. Others must find ways to contribute. But that says a lot about the quality of Nicola’s game. He drops everything every night. That’s obviously why he’s running for vice president, but it can’t be just one guy in this league. We need others to join us, and I hope we get that night [Wednesday].
Murray and Jokic criticized their teammates who played, including first-round pawns Zeke Nnai and R.J. Hampton, saying they believed the players on the field were good enough to win.
And in Murray’s case, he took responsibility for the loss.
A very easy game to win, Mr. Murray said. It doesn’t matter who’s there. It’s the little things that make us suffer…. I won this game because I don’t think I’ve ever had nine turnovers. Nine games, nine things we could give back.
It was a particularly ugly game for Denver forwards Michael Porter Jr. and Jamaichal Green. They combined for 1 in 15 from the field, including 0 in 7 from 3-point range, in a total of 53 minutes.
Porter has just two of 18 threes in his last three games.
I can’t fire a gun, Malone said. That’s the one thing I can’t do from the couch. I mean, Michael Porter has come back, but now, in the last five, six, seven games, he’s really struggling with shots, especially from the three-point line. We know he’ll get over it. He’s too good a shot not to. He just has to make sure that if there is no shooting, what else can I do to help my team? Jamaichal Green, the same. He looks good, he made shots that went in and out, around the basket from 3. We just need to stick with these guys.
As long as they look good, I want the guys to keep throwing the ball, and if we get a few easy shots and get to the foul line, maybe that will help their confidence.
Jokic shrugged when asked if he was bummed by his teammates’ inability to produce.
No, I’m not [upset], he said. We know, especially today, that this is a very different reach. … I guess it’s just another game for everyone now. But we have to adapt. Everyone must get up.