The smile was pure Norman Bates, a grin that danced wickedly from dimple to dimple. Did you see the look on the Joker’s face at the end of his news conference Monday? Dude’s in their heads now. All of them. And he knows it.
“(Nikola) Jokic presents the same type of — I don’t know, I wouldn’t say problems,” Beverley, the Clippers’ point guard, said of Nuggets center after Los Angeles’ 113-107 victory in Game 3. “He presents the same thing (Mavs guard Luka) Doncic presents … a lot of flailing. He puts a lot of pressure on the referees to make the right calls.”
Says the Duke of Deceit. The Sultan of Stagger. The Tycoon of Teetering. The Prince of Pretense. The cat who got ejected during Game 2 of Nuggets-Clips and fined $25,000 for berating a ref. The guy fined $5K last November for a flop on James Harden so epic, so brazen, that it deserved an Oscar nod.
What’s next? Nicolas Cage accusing Bob Newhart of overacting? Lady Gaga chastising The Wiggles for pushing one envelope too many?
Look, I know it’s 2020, when shame is for suckers, when the sky turns orange and rains ash on your Labor Day picnic, when a state can somehow be on fire and under six inches of snow at the same time.
But come on, man.
Whatever Beverley’s smoking, it’s not even legal here yet.
“(Jokic) is great, he’s one of a kind at that position,” Clippers guard Paul George said. “I thought (center Ivica Zubac) did a great job … Of course, what you have to do is just make it tough for him. If he makes shots, he makes shots. But it can’t be easy. He’s got to be worn down. He’s got to be tired. Going into that next game, he’s got to remember how tough it was.”
Was it, though? Going into Game 4, he’s going to remember 32 points, 12 boards and eight assists. A hook shot rainbowed off the wrong foot. And a Hail Mary, full-court pass over the entire Clips defense for a Jerami Grant dunk.
Granted, he’s also down 2-1 to a team that has Kawhi Leonard pulling at the front of the sled, and the Claw has yet to lose a postseason series that he’s led by a margin of 3-1. And yes, Jokic passed up about a half-dozen looks that he shouldn’t have over Monday’s final eight minutes, when the Nuggets watched a 97-90 lead go up in smoke.
Ivica Zubac. Montrezl Harrell. JaMychal Green. The Clippers have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Big Honey. He’s averaged 24.3 points, 11 boards and five assists during the Western semis anyway.
“What does ‘a flailing’ mean?” the Joker wondered when told of Mr. 94’s dig, asking as only Joker could.
Flopping around. Waving your arms. Trying to draw a foul.
“They had 26 free throws,” Jokic countered. “We had 10.”
Then he smirked. Broadly.
“I mean, I’m just showing the ref that that it’s a foul.”
And funny how the refs still don’t seem to care. Jokic’s been to the line 10 times over 106 minutes in the first three games of the series, or once every 11 minutes on the floor.
His primary sparring partner, Zubac, has made 11 trips to the stripe over 66 minutes. That’s once in every six minutes. Harrell, when he’s not getting posterized by Michael Porter Jr., has taken 24 free throws over 59 minutes. The big man’s averaging an attempt every 2.46 minutes he’s in the game.
Through three contests, the Nuggets have been whistled for 69 fouls to the Clippers’ 61. Team Beverley has been to the line 72 times, or 24 per game. Team Flop? Just 54 trips, or 18 per tilt.
The only thing flailing right now is Beverley’s math. To say nothing of his grasp on reality.
“It’s tough when (Jokic) gets those calls,” George continued. “He throws his body around. It’s tough. Same thing Pat said. He puts the pressure on the refs. Some of those, I don’t think are fouls. But he gets it.”
He’s in their heads now. Their psyches. Their dreams. And no matter what happens from here on out, a few of their nightmares, too.
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