Good, Bad & Ugly: Jokic’s historic triple-double and the art of losing leads

“I have been in the league for a long time, have been around the game my whole life, coached LeBron who was a triple-double threat every night, but Nikola is a guy that every night can go out there every night and actually get a triple double. When you look at the NBA right now, guys like Giannis; guys like LeBron, Luka and Nikola — those guys are incredible and for him to be that high at such a young age and you know he is going to get a lot more, it just speaks to his greatness and how he can impact the game on so many levels. That is why we love that he is a Denver Nuggets and is going to be here for a long long time.”
Dec 20, 2019; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots the ball as Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng (5) defends in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, despite a less than ideal showing, the Denver Nuggets found a way to secure another victory.

After their 109-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Nuggets are now 19-8 through their first 27 games — their best start since the 2009-10 season. Additionally, the Nuggets are now 5-0 in their division, 13-3 at home, have won five-straight games, and are starting to inch closer and closer to the best version of themselves.

In a game that had ups-and-downs, Nikola Jokic logging another triple-double, and another win over a division opponent, I give you the good, bad, and ugly.

Good – Nikola Jokic records another triple-double

Ask any of Jokic’s teammates and they will all tell you that when their Serbian superstar gets another triple-double, no one is surprised.

At this point, Jokic recording a triple-double has become a regular occasion. After putting up 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists against the Timberwolves, Jokic jumped into a tie for 10th-most triple doubles in NBA history after logging his 33rd of his short career.

Jokic is now chasing James Harden, who is ninth in NBA history with 42 triple doubles, as well as Fat Lever, who owns the Nuggets franchise record for most career triple-doubles with 43.

Jokic has now played 334 total games and has 33 triple-doubles, which equates out to a triple-double in just barely under 10% of his games. For reference, LeBron James has logged a triple-double in 7.2% of his games while James Harden has one in 5.3% of his games.

Simply stated, Jokic is accumulating triple-doubles at a historic pace and, depending on length of careers, Jokic has a shot to pass LeBron James, who currently has 88 triple-doubles, by the time it’s all said and done.

“I have been in the league for a long time, have been around the game my whole life, coached LeBron who was a triple-double threat every night, but Nikola is a guy that every night can go out there every night and actually get a triple double,” Michael Malone stated. “When you look at the NBA right now, guys like Giannis — guys like LeBron, Luka and Nikola — those guys are incredible. For him to be that high at such a young age — and you know he is going to get a lot more — it just speaks to his greatness and how he can impact the game on so many levels. That is why we love that he is a Denver Nugget and is going to be here for a long long time.”

Bad – Nuggets continue to give away leads

Yes, the Nuggets won again and yes, they had some incredible moments, but even against a struggling Timberwolves team playing in Denver, the Nuggets found a way to give away their lead and turn what should have been an easy win into a dog fight.

Once again, Denver created a big lead, and once again, they gave it away just as quickly as they built it.

Despite the Nuggets being up by as many as 19 points against the Timberwolves, somehow Denver allowed Minnesota to get within one possession and that was without Karl-Anthony Towns playing.

As Denver continues to lose leads, their head coach is desperately trying to figure out how to remedy what ails his team.

“It is a mystery,” Malone admitted when asked why Denver keeps giving away leads. “I love the great starts, the ball flying, we get big leads, but for some reason, I think we are a young team. I think it speaks to our maturity a little bit. Every night we get these leads and all of a sudden just kind of let go like, ‘oh, we got this; it is going to be easy’. It is never easy because teams are always going to make runs. This is the NBA and they are pro players. You are not going to beat a team by 20 points the whole night.”

Now all Malone can do is continue to tinker with his rotation and remind the Nuggets why they build leads an why they lose them. Until the Nuggets find a way to play for a full 48 minutes, these issues will continue to plague them.

“It seems like we can be two totally different teams within the same half,” Malone explained. “That is why I have to help that second unit, remind our starters the importance of understanding why you built the lead in the first place, and not going away from that.”

Ugly – Lakers loom large

The Nuggets are in a significantly better place mentally after winning five-straight games over their five-game homestand, but now the 24-5 Los Angeles Lakers are rested and waiting for the Nuggets to arrive in the city of angels.

Last time the Nuggets and Lakers met up, Denver managed to keep the score close despite playing some lackluster offensive basketball. They lost 105-96 in the Mile High City, but this Lakers team is much more potent and comfortable than they were when Denver faced them nearly three weeks ago and the Nuggets will be battling with the Western Conference’s first seed on their home floor.

This will be the Nuggets toughest challenge yet.

“We played them really well at home a few weeks ago, but at their place it is going to be a hell of a challenge for us,” Malone explained.

When Malone was asked about the Lakes game, he responded jokingly by saying that he does not want to watch film of the Lakers before giving a quick rundown of what he learned from their first meeting with the world-beating Lakers.

“I am trying to stay away from that (laughs),” Malone explained when asked about preparing for the Lakers. “We played them tough, but obviously LeBron and (Anthony Davis) are a problem and are a problem for everybody. I thought our defense gave us a chance and hopefully we can go on the road and travel with our defense and more importantly, continue to make shots. When our defense was playing at a high level earlier, the offense was kind of still trying to find it. Now that we have it, let’s not let it go.

“It is going to be a heck of a challenge. They are in first place for a reason, but I think our guys are more than ready for that challenge.”

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