Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic shouldered the blame after the Nuggets were eliminated Sunday by a Game 7 loss to the Trail Blazers.
Jokic, who was making his postseason debut, averaged 24.8 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.9 assists in the playoffs. He accounted for 29 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks on Sunday to lead Denver.
However, he missed seven of his 10 shots in the fourth quarter and one of two free throws with just more than 11 seconds remaining while the Nuggets were down only three.
This led Jokic take the blame for Denver’s Western Conference semifinal loss.
“They look at me as a leader. They look at me as their best player,” Jokic told media after the game, via The Denver Post. “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.”
However, coach Michael Malone didn’t agree.
“I got Nikola Jokic in there taking blame for the loss,” Malone said. “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.”
Malone added: “I hope that after 14 playoff games, America, everybody around the world that watches the playoffs, really came to appreciate Nikola’s game. 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.”
Jokic had four triple-doubles in Denver’s deepest postseason run since the 2008-09 season.
In the most exciting game — besides the final contest — Jokic had 33 points, 18 rebounds and 14 assists in the four-overtime loss in Game 3 in which he played 65 minutes. It was the most playoff minutes for a big man in the shot-clock era.