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Nikola Jokic Is In One Of His Can’t-Miss Moods

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets shoots the game winner three point basket during the game against the Golden State Warriors on January 4, 2024 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. J
Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images

Some people just seem to have a different relationship to the physical world. That's always the impression I've gotten from watching Nikola Jokic play basketball—that there is some innate gift that makes it so when his palms and fingertips touch an NBA basketball, they do so with the same familiarity a father has with his child. This, more than his subtle athleticism or supreme coordination, has always felt, to me at least, like the thing that allows Jokic to so consistently guide the basketball to the exact point in space that he wants it to go. That ball is his, he cares for it, he can make it understand where it needs to travel to, and why.

It's not always like this. Sometimes the relationship between Jokic's hands and the ball strains, and the result is a puzzlingly bad shooting night, or a turnover-heavy performance. A few weeks ago, Jokic shot 9-of-32 in a loss to the Clippers, and he followed that up with a 9-of-26 shooting night in a loss to the Rockets. Those were strange games. Jokic was getting to all the spots he usually gets to, and taking the same shots he always takes, but the ball just wasn't leaving his hands right, and possessions that usually ended in an easy two points were instead ending with the ball clanging off the rim. Watching this felt like putting on an old favorite movie, and discovering that all the scenes and dialogue I had committed to memory were suddenly different.

Jokic is now making up for all those missed shots. In his last four games, he has made 39 of his 44 shots, and the Nuggets have gone 3-1. Against the Warriors on Thursday night, he scored 34 points while shooting 13-of-16 from the field. He scored nine of those points in the fourth quarter, which began with his team trailing by 16, and his last shot of the night was a 40-foot buzzer-beater that gave the Nuggets a three-point win.

Sure, you can try to explain that by pointing out Jokic's incredible body control, which allowed him to transition from a dead sprint into a squared-up jumper launched from planted feet. You can chalk it up to luck, too. Watch Jokic do it enough times, though, and it's hard not to feel like there's something else going on here. Objects in this universe just respond differently to his touch. I see a shot like that, and I start to believe that he could throw a quarter into a beer bottle.

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