NBA Playoffs: Nikola Jokić tortures Timberwolves as Nuggets win pivotal Game 5

Before you judge Rudy Gobert, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year who just allowed Nikola Jokić to score 40 points in a pivotal Game 5, ask yourself a question.

How would you guard the Denver Nuggets superstar if you were seven feet tall with Gobert's agility and wingspan? If you have an answer, you're either wrong or need to get on the phone with the Minnesota Timberwolves ASAP.

They could certainly use the help after a 112-97 loss that gave the Nuggets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference, a series in which Minnesota once led 2-0 and looked unstoppable. A must-win Game 6 in Minneapolis awaits on Thursday.

Going back to the Jokić question, let's go through some highlights and see if we can figure out what Gobert should have done differently on a night in which the MVP dropped 40 on 15-of-22 shooting with 13 assists, seven rebounds and — take a deep breathe here — zero turnovers.

Here, Gobert matches Jokić step for step and eventually forces him into an awkward hook shot, which he makes.

Here, he meets him in the paint with a trailing Kyle Anderson and leaves only a split-second window in which a shot is even possible. Jokić, of course, finds that window and makes the shot.

Here, he has to follow Jokić to the perimeter and has to stay with him due to no viable help defense waiting for them in the paint. Gobert basically gives up and goes for a foul that knocks him off balance. Jokić takes the contact, then ... and-1.

That was all in the span of about six minutes, in a 16-point, four-assist third quarter.

Then came in the dagger in the fourth quarter, when Gobert had his hand in his face for the entire shot.

Gobert is one of the best defensive players in the history of the NBA, a guy whose presence in the paint can singlehandedly make a defense great. When given the supporting cast of the Timberwolves, he anchored the best defense in the NBA during the regular season.

The problem for the Timberwolves, and every remaining team in the playoffs, and every team hoping to contend for the title over the next few years, is that a fully functional Jokić appears to be a problem with no solution, even when Gobert gives you the closest thing you can get to an answer key. What do you do when a 7-footer has the best court vision and basketball IQ the NBA has ever seen from a big man, combined with 284-pound bulk, a shooting touch and the fastest hands in the West?

Minnesota appeared to be close to solving him early in the series, then lost all momentum. They entered Game 5 missing veteran Mike Conley and saw Karl-Anthony Towns struggle with an apparent leg injury in the second quarter.

It honestly felt like a victory when the Timberwolves entered halftime only down six points, considering they had turned it over 11 times while Anthony Edwards was 1-of-8 from the field and Towns and Naz Reid dealt with foul trouble. It looked like a turning point when they scored the first seven points of the third quarter to briefly take the lead.

Denver soon responded with a 9-2 run as Jokić went to work. Carnage ensued.

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