Gru’s Your Daddy: Nikola Jokic makes the Lakers his Minions again

Apr 20, 2024, 11:55 PM | Updated: 11:56 pm

Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven, not eight, nine. Nikola Jokic played the hero for the Denver Nuggets again as he villainized the Los Angeles Lakers for a ninth-straight victory—this one coming in Game 1 of Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs on Saturday, as the Mile High City crew won 114-103.

Dressed as Gru walking around Ball Arena and starring in a new commercial on Saturday for Despicable Me, Jokic’s anti-villain league was tasked with dispatching longtime rival Los Angeles and LeBron James. Unable to steal the moon, Jokic again stole any hope away from the Lakers and their stars via a sparkling debut to this year’s postseason.

The Joker scored 32 points on 23 shots, grabbed 12 rebounds, threw seven assists and added two steals as he went blow-to-blow with the Brow. Anthony Davis kept up but faded like the rest of his team late, making for the familiar story of a tight contest between the two where Denver eventually speeds off late. Game 1’s MVP chants adorning Jokic’s clutches moments turned into crowd-wide jeers of “Who’s your daddy?”

“It’s incredible to see on a night-in and night-out basis and I’ll never shortchange him or forget about his greatness no matter how many times he does it no matter how it used to it we get I’m always gonna give him his flowers because it’s amazing to see,” Nuggets youngster Peyton Watson said like a superhero, flipping down his sunglasses to look into the camera. The forward tallied eight early bench points, the fifth player in franchise history to score that many that quick in the playoffs. “(Jokic’s play) is honestly inspirational for somebody like me, just trying to be the best I can in this league.”

While the bad blood may continue to boil between the teams, the Lakers were left pretty mystified with what Jokic and the Nuggets have been able to do to them.

“I thought we played some good ball tonight but we could’ve been better. There’s just not much room for error against Denver, especially on their home floor,” James said. “You can’t give them extra possession.”

Denver out-glassed the Lakers 49-40. It’s very much seemingly like the size, strength and stamina of Jokic is the thing that’s finally putting an uneventful end to the 21-year run of the sports superhero James. In the last 18 months the Nuggets have turned their long rival into nothing more than their minions. Denver controls its destiny as well as that of their yellow underlings.

“I thought the game could go very bad because they were up big at one point,” Jokic said. “We just kind of took off with that 10-point lead in the third quarter and we controlled the last quarter.”

The Nuggets turned around a 12-point deficit in the first half into an eventual runaway as they just got better as the game progressed.

Maybe that’s the story of Saturday, like Gru—Nikola and the Nuggets in Game 1 kept getting better. No Nikola didn’t adopt three daughters by the end of the night but he spoke of family and his support of Michael Porter Jr, who has dealt with a lot of strife this week—with both of his brothers getting in serious trouble.

“When you’re on the court you don’t think about it and that’s a beautiful thing about basketball,” Jokic said. “Family is the first thing, but we (the Nuggets) are some kind of family too, hopefully, he can find peace and be in a good spot mentally.”

Porter finished with an important 19 points and eight rebounds.

Maybe not as gorgeous as the moon but the Nuggets were finding wonder in many places in the first game of this best-of-seven. Jokic and the Blue Arrow, Jamal Murray, combined for 17 assists with no turnovers.

“I think we know what we want, we’re not trying to make stuff up and everyone knows where they should be,” Murray said. “That’s the beauty of this team, it’s just pure basketball—there’s no fighting.”

While Nikola Jokic may not actually be Gru, his legacy gru again by getting the early series lead on the Lakers. And whether he knows it or not, the soon-to-be three-time NBA MVP has a lot in common with the lovable villain-turned-hero starring in the Universal Pictures blockbuster.

“I love the guy, I love the cartoon,” Jokic said of Gru. “I just wanted to have a little fun.”


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