Nikola Jokic pays Phoenix Suns' center highest compliment in win

The Phoenix Suns got the better of the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, and Nikola Jokic was full of praise for former teammate Jusuf Nurkic.

Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns
Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

The Phoenix Suns had one of their best wins of the season on Tuesday, as they gutted out an overtime win over the Denver Nuggets away from home. A victory made all the more impressive, given that Devin Booker was out with an ankle sprain.

The franchise needed players to stand up and be counted with their backs against the wall and the team in danger of slipping back into a play-in battle, and center Jusuf Nurkic once again delivered when he really needed to. Kevin Durant might have finished with a team high 35 points, but Nurkic was an offensive fulcrum in the absence of Booker.

After the game Nuggets' center Nikola Jokic - a former teammate of Nurkic in Denver - was full of praise for the Bosnian.

There isn't a player alive who can stop the two-time MVP winning Serbian, but Nurkic gave Jokic all that he could handle. He still got all manner of passes off and had a ridiculous buzzer-beater to close the first-quarter, but was still keen to speak about Nurkic's qualities, particularly his strength inside the paint.

"He can defend really well. He's a big guy who can in some situations switch one to five. Monster on the glass. He's a great fit for them and he's embracing his role."

Nikola Jokic on Jusuf Nurkic

Jokic was then asked if Nurkic was among the strongest opponents he has faced in the league - and to the surprise of nobody - Jokic had no problem putting him in that category either. Yet more praise given the ease with which Jokic moves most defenders out of his path.

Nurkic obviously gets up for any meeting against Jokic given the Nuggets picked Jokic over him, although even he couldn't make the case that that was the wrong decision. Jokic will be in the Hall of Fame one day, although Nurkic has quietly completely rebuilt his value around the league in just over half a season because he has been able to stay healthy.

Best of all from the perspective of the Suns, he doesn't mind sitting entire fourth-quarters if the matchup calls for it. That has happened several times already this season so that Durant could slide to the five to get the group more shooting - but on the other end of the spectrum - there was Nurkic handling the ball more in Booker's absence. Head coach Frank Vogel picked up on all of this, saying -

Yes Jokic still had a 25/16/5 on the night - another monster performance to put with all of the rest he routinely puts up - but Nurkic was also a factor on the offensive end himself. His six assists was as many as Durant and Bradley Beal, and there was one play in the second-quarter of the game where he found a cutting Durant for a fantastic and-one play.

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Nikola Jokic doesn't really go out of his way to praise anybody, so to say this much about an opponent after a loss is something for Nurkic to build on. Given that everybody thought trading Deandre Ayton for him was a mistake, then that he wouldn't stay healthy, followed by not being good enough to help his side win games, this is the latest in quite the reclamation story for the Bosnian.