Nikola Jokic fooled Celtics into lane violation, but the refs still blew the call

The Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets played a possible 2024 NBA Finals preview on Friday night in Boston. The Celtics were putting their undefeated home record on the line at 20-0. The defending champion Nuggets were out to prove they are still the team to beat in the NBA despite not having one of the five best records in the league. The game was fantastic from the opening tip, and crunch time featured a sequence rarely seen before.

The Nuggets beat the Celtics, 102-100, to give Boston its first home loss of the season. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were incredible for the defending champs, combining for 69 points on 29-for-43 shooting from the floor, yet it was a high-IQ play from Jokic that fans are still talking about the day after the game.

Denver’s Aaron Gordon was attempting the second of two free throws with Denver up two points with 17 seconds left. As Gordon was going through his shooting motion, Jokic appeared to bait both Celtics players on the block into stepping into the paint before Gordon released the ball. This is just another example of Jokic’s historically impressive basketball-IQ. Watch the play here:

Here’s another angle. Jokic’s reaction is priceless.

The refs did not rule this a lane violation somehow. Instead, a jump ball was called because they said Jokic’s toe crossed the line, too.

The lane violation rule states that if the opponent commits a lane violation on a free throw attempt, the shot counts if the player makes it, but they get a re-do if they miss. If both a teammate and opponent cross the line at the same time, the shot doesn’t count and a jump ball is called. That’s what the refs ruled.

Kristaps Porzginis beat Jokic in the ensuing jump ball, and the Celtics gained possession. Unfortunately for Boston, Jayson Tatum missed a fadeaway at the buzzer, and the Nuggets earned the win.

The Denver media has seen this before:

By the way, Jokic passed Michael Jordan for the highest career PER in NBA history with the win over Boston. Not bad!

Jokic may not have been rewarded for his high-IQ deke, but he’ll be much happier with the win. If we’re lucky, we’ll see a Nuggets-Celtics series come June.

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