Jokic a perfect 18-of-18 from free-throw line, draws ire of Kerr, as Nuggets beat Warriors 120-114

· Dec. 25, 2023, 6:19 pm
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Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic picks up a loose ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic's frequent parade to the free-throw line was a sore subject for Steve Kerr.

The Golden State coach doesn't feel like defense gets rewarded consistently enough in today's NBA.

Jokic overcame an off day from the field by going 18 of 18 from the free-throw line and the Denver Nuggets extended their winning streak to five games by holding off the Warriors 120-114 on Monday.

Jokic finished with 26 points despite a 4-of-12 showing from the floor. He set a career-high with his 18 made free throws. In all, the Nuggets were 26 of 32 from the free-throw line.

"I have no problem with the officials themselves," Kerr said after the game. "I have a problem with the way we are legislating defense out of the game. That's what we're doing. The way we're teaching officials, we're just enabling to players to (fool) their way to the foul line. If I was a fan, I wouldn't have wanted to watch the second half of that game. It was disgusting.

"It was just baiting refs into calls. But the refs have to make those calls because that's how they're taught."

The combination of Kevon Looney and rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis took turns trying to contain Jokic, who didn't have his customary touch around the basket. Jokic made up for it by being more aggressive and getting to the line.

"He gets fouled a lot. He gets beat up down there," explained Jamal Murray, who scored a game-high 28 points. "It's hard to call every foul, I understand. They can only do so much."

Kerr said that players are "smart in this league. Over the last decade, they've gotten smarter and smarter. We have enabled the players and they're taking full advantage and it's a parade to the free-throw line. It's disgusting to watch."

Stephen Curry weighed in on the topic, too.

"When there's physicality, it's tough because it's inconsistent at times on either side," said Curry, who took a bit to warm up, not scoring until midway through the second quarter, but heated up to finish with 18 points. "A night like tonight, you feel like there's physicality on one side and then kind of ticky-tack on the other and then they get into the bonus and it changes the (complexion) of the game. It's not like we don't foul. I'm not saying that.

"It was tough tonight, slowed the whole game down. (Jokic) made every free throw and changed the momentum, played into their hands."

Jokic also had 14 rebounds and eight assists.

Last Christmas, the Nuggets big man erupted for 41 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists in an overtime win over Phoenix.

All five Denver starters scored in double figures, with Michael Porter Jr. (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Aaron Gordon (16 points, 10 rebounds) both posting double-doubles.

It was a back-and-forth game that featured nine lead changes in the second half. Denver took the lead for good on Jokic's left-handed hook shot with 5:16 remaining.

"We closed the fourth and we had a lot of guys step up and make timely plays down the stretch of a close game," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "Winning makes a world of difference."

Andrew Wiggins gave the Warriors a boost by scoring 22 points as he returned to the floor after missing two games with an illness.

Golden State played on Christmas for an 11th straight year.

The Warriors moved to 5-2 since the indefinite suspension of Draymond Green after striking Phoenix center Jusuf Nurkic in the face. Kerr said before the game that Green has mostly stayed away during his suspension. Kerr added that he has been in contact with the training staff and the coaches.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Begin a seven-game homestand Thursday against Miami.

Nuggets: Host Memphis on Thursday.