Nikola Jokic praised by Celtics stars after Nuggets sweep season series

Mar 7, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) and Denver Nuggets
Mar 7, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) and Denver Nuggets / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Jokic cemented himself as the best player in the world when he led the Denver Nuggets to their first-ever NBA championship last summer. Since then, the Boston Celtics have emerged as the biggest threat to spoil Denver’s title defense. The C’s are 48-14 on the season, close to a 65-win pace.

Even so, Jokic and the Nuggets have now won both of their meetings with Boston this season. Jokic has often matched up with 7-foot-3 Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis, and the two European giants have treated basketball fans to some high-quality post play.

In Denver’s latest 115-109 win over Boston, the Joker dropped 32 points without attempting a single 3-pointer. The Serbian sensation gave Porzingis a little more than he could handle, dropping 11 assists as well.

After the game, Porzingis spoke to the media about Jokic and his greatness.

"He was definitely in his bag tonight. He's just an incredible basketball player. Some things I learned from him today actually. He's just so smart, so crafty, so many things that you don’t see him do on the floor that helps that team win ... really, really, really hard to stop."

Kristaps Porzingis

Porzingis held his own with 24 points, 12 rebounds, and a team-high +6. Latvia’s finest has enjoyed arguably the best season of his career, averaging 20.4 points and 7.0 rebounds on 52.0% shooting from the field and 37.5% shooting from three.

This season, Jokic leads the league in post-up frequency and ranks second in post-up points per game. Meanwhile, Porzingis ranks top-ten in points per post-up and free throw frequency on post-ups.

Despite their similarities in post-up dominance, Jokic is clearly head and shoulders above Porzingis. In fact, many would say the two-time MVP is head and shoulders above everyone else in the league.

Even so, Jokic has the utmost respect for Porzingis and the Celtics. In his postgame press conference, the Joker shouted out the Celtics as “the best team in the NBA” despite beating them for the second time this season to complete a series sweep. 

"They're a really good team, and they basically have answers for everything … They are a really well-built team. That's why they are number one. They are the best team in NBA right now."

Nikola Jokic

While Boston owns the best record in basketball, they seem to have more of a stranglehold on the East than they do the entire league. Their 0-2 record against the 2023-24 Nuggets suggests Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla has some adjustments to make in case his team earns a rematch with Denver in the NBA Finals.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown also gave Jokic his flowers after Boston’s loss. The three-time All-Star discussed the Celtics’ defensive approach against the reigning Finals MVP.

"Jokic is just a monster down there (in the post). We threw some different coverages at him, we  guarded him one-on-one, and we tried to have late help … We still had every chance to win this game, we just came up short."

Jaylen Brown

Brown boldly stated that he “should have guarded Jokic a little bit,” but that particular adjustment may not have worked out considering Brown is half a foot shorter than the Joker. Either way, the Celtics will feel hard-pressed to adopt a different strategy for defending Jokic if they have to face him in an NBA Finals.

The Joker is the undisputed best player in the world, and he made sure to remind the Celtics of that in their latest matchup. Just ask Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis.