Nikola Jokic has missed each of the Denver Nuggets ‘past two games after spraining his left ankle during a Nov. 30 victory over the Chicago Bulls. If Monday’s drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks is any indication, they cannot afford to play without him for much longer.
And yet, if Jokic’s own comments are any indication, the Nuggets may, in fact, have to survive a while longer with him on the shelf.
From The Denver Post‘s Gina Mizell:
Jokic, who is Denver’s leader in scoring (15.5 points per game), rebounding (10.6) and assists (4.6), missed his second consecutive game Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks. The big man did not have a timetable on when he would return when asked Monday morning, but he said the injury is “getting better” and that he has been able to increase his workload in recent days.
“I don’t want to come back and I’m not ready,” Jokic said. “That’s unfair to the players (and) the coaches, because I can’t give my 100 percent.”
Sprained ankles can be tricky, and both Jokic and Denver are of course smart not to rush the process. The NBA plays host to a long season, and the Nuggets profile as a playoff team. They need Jokic healthy for the stretch run—for games that truly matter.
Then again, these games matter. The bottom half of the Western Conference is once again shaping up to be a cluster-you-know-what. Though the Nuggets are comfortably inside the playoff bracket, that could change in the span of a week or two. One hot stretch from Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and/or Memphis Grizzlies, and they’re suddenly on the outskirts of the bubble.
Paul Millsap own absence only complicates the situation. The Nuggets know they’re not getting him back anytime soon. Losing Jokic, their leading assist man, in addition to him is hell on their already shaky depth. Their most-used lineup that doesn’t include either big has only logged 28 minutes and is being hammered by 5.6 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. They don’t have the juice to carry on like this for much longer, without their offensive lifeline and their best defender—as their 122-105 letdown against the Mavericks proved.