Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, in Denver. The Nuggets won 124-102. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

It’s a good thing Nikola Jokic is good at his job, otherwise the Denver Nuggets star might draw the ire of his head coach for picking up ticky-tack fouls late in games. 

Per Sean Keeler of the Denver Post, Jokic joked on Monday there’s a reason he will get whistled for fouls late in games. 

“Yeah, sometimes I do that just to (expletive) Coach (Malone off),” he said. 

The subject came up when a reporter informed Jokic his foul rate in the second half of games has dropped from 9.3 minutes in 2016-17 to 11.2 minutes this season. 

Jokic has only fouled out of one game so far in 2018-19, on Dec. 28 against the San Antonio Spurs. By comparison, he fouled out of three games as a rookie during the 2015-16 campaign. 

It’s perhaps not a coincidence Jokic’s decrease in soft fouls has occurred during the best season of his career. The 23-year-old is averaging 19.6 points, 7.7 assists and 10 rebounds per game to lead the Nuggets to the second-best record in the Western Conference entering Tuesday (31-14). 

Given how important Jokic is to Denver’s success, Malone will happily give his star center a lot of leeway to foul whomever he wants as long as it doesn’t cost the team any games. 

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