On Nuggets’ loss

Nikola Jokic was his usual measured self when he met members of the media in the aftermath of the Nuggets’ loss Sunday. Even as they gave away homecourt advantage on the very first match of their semifinal round series against the resplendent Timberwolves, he remained cognizant of their capacity to keep track of what avid followers of the pro scene would describe as time and score. Anything can happen in any given game, let alone a best-of-seven affair — and there’s still a lot of hoops left to be played.

Jokic is right, of course, and not simply because he’s slated to claim his third Most Valuable Player award in four years. In spearheading the cause of the Nuggets, he knows full well the value of the experience they have as defending champions vis-a-vis the relatively wet-behind-the-ears Timberwolves. It’s why he refuses to get too low following setbacks, or too high in the face of victories. That said, he’s no fool, and understands the severity of the hurdles they need to overcome if they are to succeed in their quest to retain their title.

Certainly, the Nuggets need to be at their best in order for them to take the measure of the competition. In a postseason where the typical names on the marquee — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry included — have been compelled to take in the action from afar, the Timberwolves represent a veritable changing of the guard. The latter brandished broomsticks in the first round versus the vaunted Suns, with the outcome of Game One serving to extend a pristine slate in the 2024 Playoffs. And leading the charge is certified megastar Anthony Edwards, whose utter lack of fear belies his age and fuels his extraordinary skill set.

Which is why Jokic was equally complementary of the Timberwolves and optimistic of the Nuggets’ chances. After all, they did beat the upstarts twice in the regular season, with Edwards going scoreless in the final quarters of both outings. In other words, all they need to do is perform to potential under pressure. The rest will then follow. Easier said than done? Perhaps. But for as long as there are contests left to play, they — and especially he — deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.