It was easy to miss what was the Nuggets were doing on Tuesday night while Damian Lillard was in the midst of putting on one of the most ludicrous playoff performances in recent memory. As Lillard torched Denver for 55 points, it was the Nuggets who still came away with a 147-140 victory in double overtime to take a critical 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven first round series.
Lillard had the entire league marveling at what he was doing, but Denver’s own star had some pretty great moments himself. Nikola Jokic is going to win NBA MVP for a reason, and he put all his talent on display to helping carry the Nuggets to a win. While Jokic didn’t hit 12 three-pointers like Lillard or give us two buzzer-beaters on the same night, he did show his unique abilities like only he can.
This pass by Jokic needs to be seen and appreciated. Given the stakes in the game at the moment he made the play, this feels like one of the most impressive passes of the season.
THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST PASSES I'VE EVER SEEN pic.twitter.com/kh7yehuO7l— Martinelli’s fan account (@NekiasNBA) June 2, 2021
It’s easy if you missed this moment, because appreciating passing big men is a very specific basketball fetish reserved for those who deeply watch tape, or still have a poster of Vlade Divac on their bedroom wall.
Keep in mind just how much pressure was on this moment. A tie game, in double overtime in the playoffs, Jokic has been so dominant he was double teamed. Still, with two guys in his pocket he not only manages to throw a cross-court pass to the wing man on the perimeter, but to do it when everyone in the building knew he wanted to find Michael Porter Jr. for the three. The Blazers still couldn’t stop it.
It goes beyond simple court vision or passing skill, and shows why Jokic is regarded not just as the best passing big man right now, but one of the best of all time. Furthermore, if you’re wondering why Jokic is constantly in the MVP conversation it’s for reasons like this. Not only does he put up huge numbers like he did on Tuesday night (38 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists), but the Denver offense flows through him in a way few big men in the league are capable of.
The greatest shame is that people will completely forget a moment like this existed because Dame went off for 55. Give the big man hie due.