Nuggets watched play-in game together, sharing Serbian liquor

Apr 17, 2024, 3:29 PM | Updated: Apr 30, 2024, 3:23 am

DENVER—Peyton Watson will tell you that it’s far from time to breathe easy but Nikola Jokic will tell you he’s spending some nice time by the pool while his teammates come over to the house to watch the game over drinks.

The Denver Nuggets are absolutely locked in as Watson would say but the MVP knows being focused can mean reflection and bonding as well. Watson revealed he and his Nuggets teammates were at Jokic’s house Tuesday night to watch the Lakers play-in win, securing their matchup with Denver starting Saturday.

“It was a blast, it’s always a good time when we can get together and it’s always an honor when the soon-to-be three-time MVP invites you over to his house to indulge in a game,” Watson said Wednesday about how the team viewed the contest. “Went over there, drank a little rakija. Got acquainted, a little ritual before the playoffs and let loose and have a good night with my guys before we get serious into the playoffs.”

Rakija is a popular fruit brandy from the Balkans and a favorite of the native Serbian Jokic.

Michael Malone, who also has had his fair share of rakija, but is a bigger fan of beer, said he and the rest of the coaching staff separately watched the game together at local Denver spot Blue Pan Pizza.

Jokic has obviously learned from his veterans. Last year during the NBA Finals Jeff Green hosted the team in his South Florida home for a dinner made by a celebrity chef. The night together away from the hardwood proved pivotal for the Nuggets who had just lost Game 2 of the series at home but went on to win the next three to clinch a championship.

Denver will again need to beat Los Angeles for a repeat bid, this time the two West foes meet in the first round. The Nuggets have won eight straight games against the Lakers, including last year’s sweep. But with some roster changes for Denver, it means Watson is among a group of young players who will need to level up. Watson didn’t play any meaningful minutes in the postseason last year and was rarely used as a rookie but has had a fantastic second season.

“I think Peyton Watson’s going to have a hell of a playoffs,” Malone said on Wednesday.

Watson just turned 21 in September, so he didn’t get to enjoy any celebratory Rakija last summer—he’ll have to earn it over the next two months. And it starts with a matchup against his hometown Lakers.

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