By Jack Maloney
ATLANTA (CBS SPORTS) – Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic is one of the most unique players in the league. At 7-feet and nearly 300 pounds, he plods up and down the floor, yet often operates as a point guard, and dominates games with his passing ability. Despite his offensive skills, he’s a rather reluctant scorer, and if he had it his way, he might never shoot the ball.
He was looking for his offense on Monday night against the Atlanta Hawks, however, coming out red-hot with 18 first-quarter points. By halftime, he was up to 27, and he finished with a career-high 47 points on 16-of-25 shooting to lead the Nuggets to a 123-115 win over the pesky Hawks, who were led by an electric Trae Young. The young point guard went for 29 points and seven assists while making a number of highlight-reel plays, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Jokic’s dominant performance.
Whether it was in the paint, the mid-range, or behind the arc, Jokic had everything working against the Hawks, who had little hope of containing him. With his size and strength, and ability to pass the ball if you send help, Jokic is an absolute load to deal with. And when he’s aggressive like he was on Monday, he can take over games. In addition to his 16 made field goals, Jokic also got to the line for 16 free throws, knocking down 11 of them.
— NBA (@NBA) January 7, 2020
While you’ll never be able to completely change who Jokic is, this game was another clear example that the Nuggets are better when he’s looking for his own offense instead of focusing on getting others involved. His passing is amazing, and with him controlling the game that way they’re not going to be bad. At the same time, check out these records:
So far this season, they’re 14-5 when he scores 20-plus points, and 11-6 when he doesn’t. Going back to last season, you’ll see the same trend: 31-14 when he scored at least 20 points, and 22-13 when he failed to reach that mark. To make things even more clear, they’re now 19-6 over the past two seasons when he puts up at least 25 points.
Again, they’re still really good when he’s operating more like a creator, but they’re borderline dominant when he’s aggressive. As the season goes along, it will be interesting to see whether Nuggets head coach Mike Malone is able to coax a little bit more scoring out of Jokic.