Damian Lillard has a lot of respect for Nikola Jokic, which is why the Portland Trail Blazers made sure to make life hard for him in Game 1 of their first-round playoffs matchup.
After Portland's upset of the Nuggets, Dame expressed his admiration for Jokic, whom he called the clear MVP of the 2020-21 season. The Blazers star noted they know the Serbian All-Star would be difficult to stop and that they needed to prevent him from picking them apart–which they did after they limited him to just one assist in the game, zero in the first half.
While Jokic still ended up with 34 points, Lillard countered that with his own 34 as they went away with the 123-109 victory.
“He's the MVP in my opinion. You know he's going to play well…We didn't want to allow him to score and pick us apart, and I think that played in our favor,” Dame said, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports.
True enough, the fact that Nikola Jokic wasn't able to make his teammates more involved doomed the Nuggets. Of course, Denver going 11-of-36 from deep didn't help, but everyone knows when the Joker is dishing out assists, Michael Malone's squad is pretty hard to stop.
With that said, credit should be given to Damian Lillard and the Blazers. After all, they just limited a guy who averaged more than eight assists in the regular season to just one dime in the contest. The Nuggets were simply unable to answer back what Portland threw at them with the team failing to make shots as a whole.