Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon highlight Nuggets’ chemistry after tying series with Game 4 win

Tony Nguyen | Denver Nuggets
May 13, 2024

The Denver Nuggets have come back from the dead. Written off by many after the Minnesota Timberwolves ran out in dominant fashion to a 2-0 series lead in their second-round matchup in the 2024 NBA playoffs, the Nuggets showed why they are the reigning champion. Led by Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon, who scored 35 and 27 points, respectively, the Nuggets held off a late charge from the Timberwolves to take a 115-107 victory in Game 4 to even up the series at 2-2.

The Timberwolves have boasted the league’s best defense all season long. And yet there the Nuggets were, carving up their defense in Game 4 to the tune of 57 percent shooting from the field. It’s a testament to how otherworldly of a force Jokic is on that end of the floor that it ends up rallying his teammates, particularly Gordon, to pour out everything they have on the court in the name of a victory.

“That guy right (Jokic) man, that’s where I learned to be selfless. I learned it from him. He’s the best basketball player in the world,” Gordon said with a huge smile on his face during his postgame presser, per the official NBA Twitter (X) account via ClutchPoints Twitter (X). ” If a three-time MVP can do it, I can do it too.”

Aaron Gordon has typified what it means to be the best at one’s role ever since the Nuggets brought him in via trade in 2021. Gordon has given up on nearly all shot-creation duties, instead embracing the dirty work of cutting with purpose, taking whatever the defenses gives him, and moving the ball along to the open man.

Almost always throughout league history, the identity of a powerhouse team follows that of their best player’s. For the Nuggets, there is selfless permeating through everyone thanks to the embodiment of basketball selflessness himself.

“I think [team basketball] is cool and it’s contagious, and everybody wants to do that. I think that’s the best way to play basketball,” Jokic added.

This is now a brand new series between the Nuggets and Timberwolves, with the momentum being squarely in the Nuggets’ favor. Minnesota may have laughed them off their own court during the last time these two teams met at Ball Arena, but Nikola Jokic has stood on business all season long and he has lifted his team with him.

Never underestimate the heart of the Nuggets (a champion)

It was jarring, the sight of the Nuggets getting their backsides handed to them by a hungrier, more athletic team in the Timberwolves. Game 2 was the ultimate vindication of the Timberwolves’ roster-building vision — supremely skilled athletes at every position who fly around on defense and hang their hats on wearing down the opposition.

But there is nothing quite like the experience of winning a championship; it gives teams the belief that they can always tap into a much better, much more connected side of them as they come up against opponents that have no qualms about gunning for their heads. The Nuggets have been through plenty of adversity in the past and they have managed to remain composed even in the face of perhaps their most difficult challenge yet.

“Rudy [Tomjanovich] is right, man. Never underestimate the heart of a champion,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “We won a championship a year ago. This team has been tested time and time again and we found a way to solve whatever’s been thrown at us.”

Nonetheless, champions know not to rest until the job is over. The Nuggets have done the hard part of climbing back from a 2-0 series deficit away from home, but what lies ahead is going to be even more difficult. The most difficult thing to do in the playoffs, after all, is win closeout games.

“This series is a long way from being over. We’re not celebrating. It’s two to two,” Malone added. “But what I found about our group is that they do believe in themselves and more importantly, they believe in the man next to them. We have a group that is acting as you would hope a championship team would act.”

Aaron Gordon makes the Timberwolves pay

A trendy counterstrategy against the Nuggets’ unstoppable offense is to park a rim protector on Aaron Gordon while putting a capable post defender on Nikola Jokic. Teams are betting that Gordon won’t make enough buckets to make them pay, but the 28-year old is proving otherwise.

Gordon, in Game 4, shot 11-12 from the field for 27 points, proving himself to be the ultimate backbreaker for a Timberwolves defense that’s just wishing upon its lucky stars that he misses.