Nikola Jokic Buzzer-Beater Stuns Luka Doncic, Mavs as Nuggets Win 100-99

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2019

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, left, is congratulated for his game-winning basket by guard Monte Morris during the team's NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Denver. The Nuggets won 100-99. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Anything you can do, I can do better.

That is what Nikola Jokic had to say to Luka Doncic after he drilled a buzzer-beater to give the Denver Nuggets a 100-99 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday at the Pepsi Center. Doncic powered his way to the rim and threw down an and-one dunk over multiple defenders to give his team the lead on the penultimate possession, but he missed the free throw and left the door open for Jokic.

The All-Star big man went straight through it with his off-balance winner.

Denver is now 29-6 at home this season after overcoming a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter, while the Mavericks fell to an abysmal 6-28 on the road. Dallas is also 1-12 in its last 13 games and has lost seven straight.

Jokic finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists, while Doncic countered at 24 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Paul Millsap led all scorers with 33 points and eight rebounds.

            

Jokic's Impact Beyond Scoring Gives Nuggets High Floor in Playoffs

Jokic can add his buzzer-beating shot to what is already the best season of his career.

The Nuggets big man is averaging 20.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game behind 50.7 percent shooting from the field. He made his first career All-Star Game and is clearly Denver’s best player and go-to option.

Even though he struggles at times on the defensive end, the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed still boasts a net rating of plus-7.3 when he’s on the floor, per NBA.com.

A large reason for that is his ability to impact the game in a number of ways beyond just scoring. His control of the glass was critical as the Mavericks scored just 10 points in the fourth quarter, and the defensive attention he draws every time he touches the ball opens up opportunities for others.

It was Millsap who took full advantage in Thursday’s matchup, often lining himself up on the block opposite of Jokic and benefiting from the latter's guard-like passing as a facilitator.

That Jokic can work in pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops as a scorer or facilitate from the high elbow in an isolation situation opens up Denver’s entire offense. It can work him into space but also rely on him as a de-facto point guard who can pull the opposing center away from the rim and open up driving lanes for his teammates.

It is a testament to his versatile game that he was still an important part of the Nuggets’ efforts even though he had just two points going into the fourth quarter.

The Houston Rockets are not going to win if James Harden has two points going into the fourth quarter. The same can be said of the Oklahoma City Thunder with Paul George and Russell Westbrook, the Portland Trail Blazers with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and the Utah Jazz with Donovan Mitchell.

Jokic proved he still can take over as a scorer in crunch time with nine points in the fourth and Denver’s final five to put the finishing touches on the comeback win. The Mavericks couldn’t afford to send multiple players his direction in the final minutes with his passing ability and Millsap playing so well, and the result was his late scoring burst to clinch the victory.

Denver will enter the playoffs with a balanced attack that can win a number of ways.

Millsap is a veteran, playoff-tested leader on the blocks who will not be intimidated by the postseason environment. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are capable of taking over for stretches on the perimeter, Will Barton is a slasher who provides an offensive spark, and the bench is sixth in the league in net rating, per NBA.com.

This team doesn’t need Jokic to score in order to be a threat in its first postseason since the 2012-13 campaign.

            

What’s Next?

Both teams are home Saturday, with the Nuggets facing the Indiana Pacers and the Mavericks playing the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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