The Grizzlies gave the Nuggets a run for their money in a double overtime thriller but the leading MVP candidate Nikola Jokić protected his home court and put on a stellar performance with 47 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists to win it 139-137. 

“I think his confidence in clutch situations has been born from doing it,” Michael Malone said. “He has put this team on his back the last 3 to 4 years and that’s why we’ve always been a really good closing team.” 

His teammate Will Barton can be seen joining the crowd with ‘MVP’ chants letting the big man know he’s the league’s MVP. He shared some of the examples that stick with him the most that capture his MVP moments.

“I told him that his work ethic this year has separated him,” Barton said of his conversation with Jokić. “That’s why he’s having the season he is having. He’s in here everyday. Off days, game days he’s in here early. He’s getting shots up, working on his moves, he’s lifting weights, he’s making sure he’s in shape. He’s putting the work in. This is the most work I’ve seen him put in. He always works hard but he took another leap.”

The Nuggets were down by as many as 12 points with 3 and a half minutes left in regulation and then went off on a 14 to 2 run to force overtime. Michael Porter Jr and Barton hit some crucial threes down the stretch, Facu Campazzo came up with the momentum changing steal and Jokić got fouled and tied the game at 116. The Grizzlies had 20 seconds left to make a play and missed two potential game winners. 

“Tonight was a character win,” Malone said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our group. No Jamal Murray, no Monté Morris, down 9. Most teams are just going to let go of that rope but that’s not in our DNA.”

Ja Morant scored 9 of his 36 points in the first overtime to give the Grizzlies a 125-120 lead. Jokić cut that lead to three with 1:15 left to play and then Will Barton drills a three-pointer to tie it at 125 with 12 seconds to go, forcing the double overtime.

Second overtime, Jokić knocked down back to back buckets to give the Nuggets a 129-125 lead which fueled a 9-0 run. The Grizzlies responded with a couple trips to the free throw line and a clutch three by Morant to take a 130-129 lead with 2:20 left.

Then it was all Denver Nuggets scoring 10 straight points to seal the game. Michael Porter Jr. hit a triple and then Jokić knocked one down as well.

“We’re going to fight the fight even when we’re not playing our best basketball,” Malone said. “The turnovers tonight were alarming to say the least but even with that we found a way to win a game and that’s what good teams do.”

The Nuggets allowed the Grizzlies to score 27 points off turnovers.

Barton set the tone early for the Nuggets scoring all of their first 13 points on 4 of 5 shooting from the field and 2 of 2 from three.

“I wanted to come out tonight and be aggressive,” Barton said. “I feel like when I’m playing that way I’m one of the best players on the court night in and night out.”

He finished the night with 28 points on 8 of 19 shooting from the field and 5 of 6 from downtown including a clutch three in the fourth quarter.

Throughout the first three quarters, every time the Nuggets would go on a run, the Grizzlies responded. The Nuggets had a 9-point lead to start and then the Grizzlies went on a 9 to 2 run of their own to get within two.

Four minutes left in the first, Memphis put together a 16 to 6 run to take a 24-21 lead. Then D’Anthony Melton went off for back to back threes scoring 14 points in the first quarter on 5 of 8 from the field and extended the Grizzlies lead to 35-27 to close the quarter. 

Second quarter, the Nuggets were careless with the basketball allowing the Grizzlies to score 25 points off of their turnovers. They went on a 16-2 run midway through the second but Jokić took the wheel and got the Nuggets within 4 points at the half. Grizzlies were up 60-56. Jokić scored 16 points in the first half on 7 of 9 shooting. 

Third quarter, Memphis went on a 10-0 run while Denver went 0-4 to start. Malone called a timeout to regroup and the Nuggets came out hitting three straight threes to get within four points. They went on a 9-2 run to get within one point but Memphis still led 95-87.

Fourth quarter, Memphis extended its lead to as many as 12 points. With under four minutes left to go, the Grizzlies had a 114-102 lead until Porter Jr. came up clutch with a three. The momentum shifted from there and the Nuggets gained control with a clutch Barton three to force overtime.

The Nuggets are now 3-0 without Jamal Murray and will also be without Monté Morris for an extended period of time. They’re 37 and 20 on the season sitting in fourth place.

Denver plays the next two games on the road in Portland and Golden State.