Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic revealed the team's plan for Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets was to let Nikola Jokic score but try to prevent him from getting his teammates involved. The Blazers' plan actually worked as they stealed Game 1 on the road after a 123-109 win over the Nuggets.
Jokic finished the game with 34 points, 16 rebounds but only one assist. "We want him to score and not get his teammates involved," Nurkic said, per ESPN. "When he scores, I think we have a better chance. The fact he isn't involving all his teammates, he gets more dangerous when he's in and out.
I think we feel more comfortable when he scores 30 or 40 and try to lock in on all the other guys to not have a big game." Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard showed his respect for Jokic after the game. "When they're at their best, he's setting the table, he's dominating the game as a playmaker.
As a scorer, he's having his way," Lillard said. "You know a guy as good as he is, an MVP candidate -- the MVP, in my opinion -- you know he's going to play well. He's going to do what he does, but you have to try to take something away."
Jokic gave credit to the Trail Blazers
"They were playing me straight up," Jokic said. "They were going under pick-and-rolls. They didn't help much on my drives or post-ups. It was that kind of night. "They did a good job.
They made me work for it on every possession. They kind of took other guys out. I couldn't get other guys involved, maybe. Just because of the assists, I'm saying that." Meanwhile, Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony heard boos from the crowd in his return to Denver.
"It's cool, man. I love them too. I love those guys too. It's been what, almost 10 years now since I've been here?" Anthony said. "The love is there. They love me; they hate me. I can't do nothing about that.
Just go out there and smile, enjoy myself and have fun. Whatever they have to say, let them say it. It's not my concern." "What else can they do?" Anthony added regarding the reception. "I don't know what it is.
I gave my all here for 7½ years. I've never said anything bad about Denver, about fans, the organization, players. I never complained. I took everything on the chin even when it wasn't my fault."