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Jokic and Murray: Masters of the Pick and Roll

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN looks at how Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray work together to run Denver’s offense.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Like the Portland Trail Blazers, the Denver Nuggets rely heavily on running the pick-and-roll through Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic as part of their offense, and Jackie McMullan of ESPN explains how the two have reached new heights this postseason. Relying on improvisation, Jokic reads the defense to decide how he and Murray will respond. They also flip the script in that Murray sets the screen for Jokic.

”That’s unheard of,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone says. “It speaks to a couple of things: Nikola’s ability to handle and make plays, but also the underrated fact that Jamal Murray is our best screener.

Isiah Thomas, a master of the pick-and-roll, says in the piece that what makes Denver’s situation unique is the way Jokic can handle the ball.

”He can put it on the floor and make as good a pass as a guard can,” Thomas says. “Most bigs are good passers when stationary. Very few bigs are great passers off the bounce, but Jokic is.”

Jamal Murray has his own skillset that complements what Jokic can do, according to Denver assistant coach David Adelman, who says that Murray’s ability to adjust the angles of his screens add a level of nuance to the pick-and-roll that puts the defender at a disadvantage.

”Setting a proper screen is so important,” Adelman says. “What Jamal’s screens often do is provide Jokic with a downhill drive. And, once a man of that size gets that close to the rim, with his touch, he’s gained a big advantage without having to work so hard.”

Portland needs to be wary of Denver’s capability on offense going into Game 7, especially as it pertains to the Nuggets’ ability to use the pick-and-roll creatively. If the Blazers can shut down the connection between Murray and Jokic, that will go a long way towards finishing off the Nuggets.

You can read the entire piece here.