Nuggets' Malone: 'Everything just falls apart' with Jokic on bench
It's not uncommon for a team to rely heavily on the NBA MVP. By definition, the award goes to the player whose contributions to their team are of greater importance than any other.
"Every time he comes out, everything just falls apart," Malone said following Wednesday's 108-106 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies, according to CBS Sports' James Herbert. "It's every night."
Jokic led Denver with 34 points (11 of 20 shooting) and 11 boards in 35 minutes of action against the Grizzlies, four minutes more than he's averaged during the early stages of the campaign.
While Jokic caught a breather late in the third frame, Memphis went on an 18-3 run, forcing Malone to substitute his star back on the floor sooner than he would have liked to.
"I went to him in the fourth quarter and I called his name and he looked at me kind of like, 'Already?'" Malone said. "And I feel for him."
"Nikola's going to be worn down by Christmas at this rate," he added. "And that's unfortunate. So I have to do my job to try to figure it out. Try to help that unit. mix and match, try different guys, whatever it is, but we just have to be better when Nikola Jokic is not on the floor."
Malone could have a herculean task on his hands considering how the 4-4 Nuggets have thus far fared without Jokic.
With Jokic on the court, the Nuggets are outscoring opponents by 14.2 points per 100 possessions, with an offensive rating of 108.7 and a defensive rating of 94.5, according to Cleaning the Glass. Without the 26-year-old, Denver has a 94.5 offensive rating and a 119.9 defensive rating for a net rating of negative-25.4
The Nuggets' reliance on Jokic is made more glaring by the early performances of his teammates and the continued absence of guard Jamal Murray, who suffered a torn ACL in April.
Michael Porter Jr., who signed a five-year maximum extension this offseason, is averaging just 10.9 points per game compared to 19 last campaign. Newcomer Jeff Green has also failed to replicate his form with the Brooklyn Nets last season, and lineups featuring him and JaMychal Green have been outscored by 36.8 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Next up for Jokic and the Nuggets is a meeting with the 1-6 Houston Rockets Saturday at Ball Arena in Denver.
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