Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic drops ‘perfect’ admission after failing to defend championship

Tony Nguyen | Denver Nuggets
May 20, 2024

Winning back-to-back championships in the NBA is an extremely difficult challenge. The Denver Nuggets were hoping to accomplish the feat in 2024, but fell short in the Western Conference Semifinals after losing Game 7 to the Minnesota Timberwolves 98-90 on Sunday.

Nikola Jokic won the third MVP of his career in 2023-24. He performed at a high level once again and led the Nuggets to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Denver entered the NBA playoffs with high expectations after winning the NBA Finals during 2022-23 campaign.

But the Timberwolves, who are led by one of the best young players in the game in Anthony Edwards, fought hard throughout the series and upset the defending champions. Minnesota looked especially determined, as Edwards’ teammates picked him up despite his difficult game shooting the ball.

Jokic, meanwhile, had a big performance in the Nuggets’ Game 7 loss.

Jokic’s playoff performance

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) drives with the ball in the third quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves in game seven of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Jokic scored 34 points, recorded 19 rebounds, and added seven assists on Sunday. His teammate Jamal Murray led the team in scoring with 35 points in the loss. Despite Jokic and Murray’s strong offensive games, Denver’s offense struggled to find a rhythm in the fourth quarter which led to the defeat.

Jokic ultimately averaged 28.7 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game in the 2024 NBA playoffs. He struggled with his three-point shot, but still found the bottom of the net from inside the arc on a consistent basis.

MVPs are expected to step up in important moments. Jokic played well in the clutch, but it was not enough to overcome the Timberwolves.

Minnesota plays with a lot of energy and confidence. Sure, they are talented to say the least. However, the Timberwolves’ confidence plays a pivotal role in their success. They certainly did not look intimidated in Game 7 despite playing on the road in Denver.

So is there a budding rivalry between the Nuggets and Timberwolves?

“I mean yes,” Jokic responded when asked if the Timberwolves could be a rival of the Nuggets, quote via ClutchPoints. “I think they are built to beat us… Just look at their roster, they have basically two All-stars, two probably first defensive players of the year.”

Jokic also proceeded to compliment a number of players on the Timberwolves.

Nuggets fall short against Timberwolves

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) during the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves in game seven of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Again, defending a championship is difficult. Jokic discussed the topic after the team’s Game 7 loss, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Asked Nikola Jokic what it will take to get back to winning another championship, he said there are so many teams that never win it all. He said everyone — players, coaches — have to get better. He said in order to win a championship, you have to ‘be perfect,’” Youngmisuk wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

In the end, the Nuggets still feature a talented roster. Denver should be able to contend moving forward. It would not be surprising to see them compete for another championship soon.

Any team that features a three-time MVP like Nikola Jokic is going to have an opportunity to contend. In the 2024 playoffs, though, it will be the Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks battling in the Western Conference Finals. And that series projects to be a competitive clash with both teams playing impressive basketball in the postseason.