Jokic helping Nuggets win games with unique, innate, borderline bush league tactics

May 12, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) listens during a
May 12, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) listens during a / Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Jokic is the best basketball player in the world right now, in a way that’s almost unanimous for the first time since the early 2010s when LeBron James was dominating the league. The Joker has won the MVP award three times in four years with a second-place finish mixed in. 

He’s also the reigning Finals MVP and has his team two wins away from another Western Conference Finals appearance. His basketball skills are second to none and he plays with a poise and composure that’s currently unmatched.

Jokic's "win at all costs" attitude

But there are things Jokic does on the basketball court that go beyond skill and emphasize his competitive nature, will to win, and pure gamesmanship. His “white whale” has been a story all season (and beyond) as Jokic will try to throw up a heave when he senses a take-foul coming, hoping to be awarded free throws for being in the act of shooting.

This is a savvy move, but we’ve also seen it almost come back to bite the Nuggets, much like in game 5 against the Lakers. Jokic attempted this move but did not get the foul call, throwing up an errant shot that could have cost his team the game if not for a miraculous offensive rebound by Aaron Gordon.

Time wasting that would make Serie A managers proud

Well, in game 4 in Minnesota, we witnessed another form of gamesmanship from Jokic, this time involving time-wasting. This is a prevalent, somewhat frowned upon, but ultimately helpful strategy seen in European soccer. It can be used in basketball, but on Sunday night Jokic brought it to another level.

Every opportunity he got, with a running clock, Jokic would intentionally seem to fumble the basketball or knock it away from himself. He seemed to sense that the clock was running (usually after a made basket by the Wolves) but the 5-second count for inbounding the ball hadn’t started. He was doing everything in his power to delay the start of that count while the game clock was running.

In the fourth quarter of game 4, Jokic salted away an entire minute of the game clock by using this strategy. It allowed the Nuggets to hold onto their lead and win a pivotal game 115-107. It’s a questionable move that will surely draw the ire of Wolves fans and some neutrals around the NBA.

But the league and the officials allowed it and Jokic has shown he will do anything and everything to gain his team a competitive advantage, no matter how slight. This one was fairly large as an additional minute of play could have afforded Minnesota more chances at a comeback.

It will be interesting to watch going forward if this is something Jokic goes back to and also if the league and referees crack down either by starting the 5-second count earlier or stopping the game clock. As they say, if you’re not cheating you’re not trying. Good on Jokic. Win at all costs. Any fan would be happy to see one of their own players pulling this move if it helped win a game.