After the Denver Nuggets’ best season in a decade arrived at an end, Nikola Jokic assumed the fault for the Game 7 misfortune to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Regardless of having 29, 12 bounce back and four blocks, Jokic blamed himself for the 100-96 misfortune at home, in which he missed seven of 10 shots in the final quarter and one of two free throws with 11.4 seconds remaining and Denver down three in the Western Conference semifinals’ deciding game.
“They look at me as a leader. They look at me as their best player,” Jokic said postgame. “So yeah, I missed those free throws near the end, and in the Portland game we went to four overtimes, I missed a lot of other shots, and I’m supposed to make some of those.”
In his first postseason, Jokic developed as the best enormous man in the NBA playoffs. He averaged 24.8 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.9 assists, and there were times when San Antonio and Portland didn’t have a response for the 7-footer.
“I got Nikola Jokic in there taking blame for the loss,” Denver coach Michael Malone said moments after Game 7. “It’s not his fault. This was a group effort. I think the cumulative effect of 14 playoff games and us asking him to do as much as we asked him to do finally took its toll on him tonight.”
Jokic had four triple-doubles, including 33 points, 18 bounce back and 14 assists a four-overtime misfortune in Game 3 that saw the huge man play 65 minutes, the most playoff minutes in the shot clock era.
“I hope that after 14 playoff games, America, everybody around the world that watches the playoffs, really came to appreciate Nikola’s game,” Malone said. “Playoff debut, almost averaged a triple-double in 14 games and was playing close to 40 minutes a night. He’s arguably the best big man in the NBA.”
The Nuggets shot only 2-for-19 from 3-point range in Game 7, and Jokic was the only Nugget to make the two 3-pointers. Jamal Murray shot 4-for-18 and completed with 17 points. Gary Harris made seven of 11 shots and scored 15 points.
The Nuggets will go into the offseason with the bitter taste of not having the option to get toward the Western Conference finals in spite of being up 3-2 with Game 7 on their home floor.
“You want to look at it in a positive way, but it’s tough when you know you can beat a team and you lose,” Murray said. “It’s just tough.”