When the favorite for the NBA’s MVP awards meets the favorite for the Defensive Player of the Year, something’s got to give.
With the playoff race in the Western Conference heating up, Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets take on the top-seeded Utah Jazz and Rudy Gobert on Friday night. Jokic is coming off of a 32-point performance in a blowout win over the Knicks where he got just about anything he wanted in the paint.
Things won’t come as easy against Gobert, who WynnBET has as the heavy favorite at -5000 to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Jokic has been unstoppable all season, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s due for a down game against Gobert.
Jokic’s player prop projection for points is set at 27.5 in this one. Vegas is putting some respect on Gobert’s defensive prowess as the under for Jokic (-120) is favored against the over (+100). While the under is favored, Jokic is averaging 26.4 points per game this season, so it’s not crazy to think he would finish around that number.
However, since Jamal Murray went down with a season-ending knee injury, Jokic has been on a tear, averaging 27.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists while leading the Nuggets to a 10-2 record over that span.
Normally, Jokic may look to create more against a defensive stalwart like Gobert (he averages 7.0 assists per game against the Jazz this season), but Denver is without Monte Morris and Will Barton as well, leaving the scoring load to fall heavily on the shoulders of Jokic and Michael Porter Jr.
Denver knows that the best way to win is to get Jokic going early, and he did that against the Knicks by scoring 24 first-quarter points. The Nuggets may choose to attack Gobert with Jokic early and try to get him in foul trouble.
Jokic’s ability to get to his spots in the paint and his feathery touch in the painted area make him a tough guard for even Gobert’s length. In his two previous matchups with Utah this season, Jokic is averaging 41.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists while shooting 63.3 percent from the field and 70.0 percent from 3-point range.
He’s risen to the occasion countless times this season, and it seems that Jokic has been out to prove something against the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. He may not get 41, but we’re backing Jokic to hit the over and get the best of Gobert for the third time this season.