Nikola Jokic won a game at the buzzer for the Denver Nuggets last night, erasing what should have been an iconic, game-winning dunk from Luka Dončić with an objectively ugly fall-away jumper that somehow went in:
This is sort of Jokic’s thing. That shot was his fourth game-winner of the season, and it looked a lot like those that preceded it. Some guys win games with daring, cinematic pull-up jumpers from behind the arc, or courageous drives into the teeth of the defense. Jokic wins them by just kind of oafishly moving towards the basket and then flicking his wrist in such a way that the ball finds an unlikely yet unstoppable path to the basket. He did it against the Heat:
And the Grizzlies:
And the Kings:
And now the Mavericks.
Athletes are impressive because they are able to exert control over the physical world around them in ways that seem unfathomable to normal people. That control most often manifests itself in a spectacular display of power or speed, as it did when Dončić dunked the life out of the Nuggets or when LeBron James pinned Andre Iguodala’s layup. But there are also players like Jokic, who make amazing things happen not with physical strength or dexterity, but with a seemingly innate feel for the game the game they play. He has what appears to be a hardwired ability to make the ball go where he wants it to go. You see this ability every time he floats an inch-perfect pass to a teammate cutting through the lane, and you see it in each of those bumbling yet deadly game-winners. Watch enough Nuggets games and you’ll be convinced that Jokic could, if he really needed to, toss a quarter into a shot glass that’s sitting across the room.
It’s a fun thing to watch happen if you are a Nuggets fan, or even just a neutral observer. But I can imagine few things more maddening than getting beaten at the buzzer by what looks more like a happy accident than a real basketball play. Just ask Dončić: