Prior to Monday night’s game
between the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets, 20-year-old
center Alperen Şengün
expressed his excitement about playing against two-time NBA MVP
Nikola Jokić – whom he has looked up to for years.
“It makes me happy when they
compare me to him because he is my idol,” Şengün told reporters before the
The Nuggets beat the Rockets
129-113, and both centers played well. Şengün finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and
3 assists, while shooting 50% from the field and 80% from the
free-throw line. Jokić had 32 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists,
while shooting 64.7% from the field, 50% from three-point range and
90% from the free-throw line.
Şengün admitted to being a bit
starstruck, saying after the game: “I forget everything when I get on the court
This was just the second time that the centers have faced off, and
it marked the first time that Sengün started and played a lot of minutes
against his idol. (In last November's showdown, Şengün came off of
Houston's bench and played just 14 minutes).
"I was excited to play against
him. I played well, he played well,” Şengün added. “It was a good game for us, we have to look
forward to the next game… I'm learning. He's a good post-up player,
and I'm learning how I can guard when they play the
Like Jokić, Şengün is a skilled
passer who’s capable of having an offense run through him. In fact,
Jokić believes that Houston needs to run things through their
center more often.
"I think he’s really talented,”
Jokić said of Şengün after the game. “Maybe this is going to sound
weird, but I think they need to play a little bit more through him.
Sometimes they look a little bit more stagnant with all their
threes. The guy has the talent. He can pass the ball, he can post
up, he has the touch around the rim. You can see some different
moves that he’s made."
Şengün has had some really
impressive performances this season. He filled the stat sheet in a
win over the Oklahoma City Thunder three nights ago, finishing with
21 points, 19 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks on 58.8%
shooting from the field.
Kevin Porter Jr. recently raved
about his Rockets teammate, referring to Şengün as “Baby Joker” and
talking about how talented he is.
"I loved it,” Porter Jr. said of
watching Şengün face
Jokić. “That's his idol.
That's someone that he matched his game after. It's good going
against people like that, especially for AL-P. It's the MVP at the
end of the day. Definitely a good matchup for him."
Şengün and Jokić won't have to wait very long to face off again;
Denver and Houston face each other again on Wednesday at 9 p.m.