It may not have been a clash between two of the most marketable teams in the NBA, but there remains an air of anticipation when it comes to the 2023 NBA Finals. The Denver Nuggets have not made the NBA Finals in their 47-year history prior to this season, while the Miami Heat have a chance to write the storybook ending to their Cinderella 2023 playoff run. And for Nikola Jokic, it seems like all the emotions brought forth by the narratives of the series became almost disorienting.
Speaking with reporters following the Nuggets' 104-93 Game 1 win over the Heat, Jokic dropped a telling admission regarding how he felt prior leading up to the tip-off.
“I mean, to be honest, I couldn't wait to start just because when the game started it felt abnormal. Everything else didn't feel — felt abnormal, and the whole media day yesterday or the day before, it was — I think people are making something bigger than it is,” Jokic said, per ASAP Sports. “[But] when the game started, I felt really comfortable.”
Perhaps the anticipation of getting the Nuggets' NBA Finals debut out of the way was making Nikola Jokic feel antsy. But as he said, he truly felt comfortable once the game began, as he performed like he's done all postseason long. In 40 minutes of play, Jokic dropped yet another playoff triple-double, tallying 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 assists to lead the Nuggets to within three wins of basketball immortality.
With the way Jokic looked out there on the court, it certainly felt like it was just another game to the two-time MVP. Even the biggest of stars have struggled under the brightest of lights, but that wasn't the case for the Nuggets star, as he put the Heat defense to the sword straight off the tip.
Still, Nikola Jokic knows better than to rest on his laurels. As he told the NBA TV crew, one win does not excite him, given the Heat's tendency to surpass expectations. But if that was Jokic's level of play despite feeling “abnormal” prior to the game, how much better might he be once he gets all the jitters out of the way?