Nikola Jokic became the first player in NBA history to have 2,000+ points, 1,000+ rebounds and 500+ assists in a single season all while helping the Denver Nuggets clinch a playoff spot after a 122-109 win at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jokic put up 35 points on an efficient 16 of 24 shooting, 16 rebounds and six assists. Head coach Michael Malone played the reigning MVP the entire third quarter and part of the fourth even though Denver was up 20 (or more) points. He really wanted him to get the record
“So we keep him in and he finally gets the record,” Malone said. “I was relieved to get the win and I was relieved for him to get the record tonight. 2000+ points, 1000+ rebounds, 500+ assists it’s just remarkable what he has done. I know I am very biased. I admit that wholeheartedly but the MVP isn’t even a competition.”
Malone noted there are other great players out there but there’s no one quite like Jokic. When you compare this season’s numbers to last season’s, he’s having an even better year this year. He’s averaging 27 points, 13.7 rebounds, 7.9 assists and a league high 32.88 PER this season. Last season, he averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists and a league high 31.36 PER. The only differences are that last year the Nuggets finished in third place in both the Western Conference and in the league as a whole in addition to having another star player in Michael Porter Jr.
Jokic also admitted in his postgame press conference that he had a better season this year than he did last year but winning the MVP again isn’t at the top of his priority list. Winning games is.
“I’m just going to be humble,” Jokic said. “Do I see myself as one of the best? Yes and no. I think to be the best you have to have the better record to be honest. Do I impact the game? I think I impact the game really well in different ways. I don’t think about that. That I’m one of the best in the league. I’m just trying to win the game. That is my approach.”
Bones Hyland will give the MVP credit where credit’s due. He said Jokic is really good at basketball and that he’s so proud of everything he has been able to accomplish for himself and the team. The rookie also said he looks up to Jokic and applies some of the things he has learned from him to his own game and regimen.
“I took so much away from him as far as habits and his routine,” Hyland said. “Everyday he follows the same routine. At first I didn’t have a routine and that had me everywhere, all over the place. He’s a guy you want to look at coming in as a rookie. He has had so much success in the league… Now I’m on the same type of routine and I got my own routine and it helps me not only off the court but on the court as well.”
Hyland put up 16 points in Thursday night’s game and has made a huge impact for the Nuggets off the bench this season. He’s not afraid of the big moments not even the NBA playoffs.
“I’m ready for sure,” Hyland said when asked about playing in his first NBA postseason. “The energy, the excitement, everything that playoff basketball brings. I’ve been watching playoff basketball since I was little. The excitement, the joy and the level of grit that’s in the game that’s what I bring and I just can’t wait.”
This is the fourth season in a row that the Nuggets have clinched a playoff berth and they did so in great fashion by running away with the game early. They went on an 18-3 run midway through the first quarter led by Aaron Gordon who scored 14 of his 22 points. In the second quarter they outscored the Grizzlies 36-23 and then went up by as much as 30 points in the third. It was just too much for Memphis to overcome.
Denver is currently in sixth place in the Western Conference standings while the Utah Jazz are just a half game ahead in fifth place. Denver has one more game left of the regular season and Utah has two so it’s still to be determined what place either team will be in come playoff time. The Nuggets face the Los Angeles Lakers at home on Sunday night.