Jokic injury absence had been 'brewing' as Nuggets toil without two-time MVP
Nikola Jokic sat out the Denver Nuggets' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans as an "ultra cautious" step to protect the two-time MVP ahead of the NBA playoffs.
The Nuggets were beaten 107-88 and have lost their last four matches in which Jokic did not play. He missed this one with a calf injury that appears to be a minor problem.
On this occasion, Denver turned in a largely shabby display in the home loss, proving especially dire from three-point range where their 4-of-28 shooting pointed to a clear deficiency.
Sitting top of the Western Conference, three games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies, Denver could afford to let Thursday's game get away from them.
The playoffs are approaching, so it was a night where coach Michael Malone felt Jokic needed a rest.
When assessing afterwards how the game went so badly wrong for the Nuggets, Malone said: "Well, Nikola didn't play."
He expanded on his reasons, but it is clear Jokic's unavailability was a major factor behind the team's performance.
Once again, Jokic is a leading contender for MVP honours, chasing a hat-trick of consecutive individual accolades.
The 28-year-old Serbian is averaging 24.9 points per game, plus 11.9 rebounds and 9.9 assists, and it looks to be between him and Joel Embiid for MVP, albeit with Giannis Antetokounmpo a potential dark horse.
Malone, quoted in the Denver Post, said before the game began it was a smart move to give Jokic a rest, following his triple-double against the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the week.
"Yeah, I think it's just been something kind of brewing a little bit," said Malone.
"He was able to get through the Philadelphia game. In practice yesterday he didn't do a whole lot. Obviously, being ultra cautious with where we're at in the season. If there's any doubt, we're going to definitely err on the side of caution with seven games remaining in the regular season."