What Nikola Jokic has been able to accomplish in his first ever playoff series is truly remarkable. He posted video-game like stat lines game after game and carried the Denver Nuggets to their first playoff series win in a decade.

If you ask Michael Malone, Denver beating the Spurs in seven games just bolstered Malone’s already incredibly high opinion of Jokic.

“It has only strengthened my belief that he is a future Hall of Famer, he is an All-NBA player, and he is an MVP candidate,” Malone explained just under two hours before Game 7 tipped off when reflecting on Jokic’s greatness in his first-ever playoff series. “First time in the playoffs and this guy is going out there and playing at an unbelievably high level.

“I think we learned that Nikola Jokic is a special player. I knew he would play well, but I did not know that he would average near a triple double in seven games.”

Jokic did not just flirt with triple-double averages over Denver’s seven-game series against the Spurs, but actually ended up averaging a whopping 23.1 points, 12.1 rebonds, and 9.1 assists per game. The only other player in NBA history to reach those averages over a full playoff series was Oscar Robertson 56 years ago.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jokic had a plethora of other incredible accomplishments as well. He joined Robertson, Charles Barkley, and Magic Johnson as the only players in NBA history to score 43+ points, grab 12+ rebounds and dish out 9+ assists in a single playoff game. Additionally, Jokic’s 14 assists in Game 1 were the second-most assists by a center in playoff history behind Wilt Chamberlain, who had 19 assists in a single playoff game in 1967. Last but not least, in Game 4, Jokic became the only player in NBA history to accumulate 29 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists without turning the ball over in a playoff game.

Simply stated, Jokic dominated and carried the second-seeded Nuggets past the San Antonio Spurs in hard-fought seven-game series. Now, the Nuggets are heading to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 10 years because their Serbian Stallion carried them there.

“For a young player in his fourth year in his first playoffs, how confident does he look? How under control and poised does he look?” Malone asked rhetorically. “He is playing like the best player in this series.”

There were many questions surrounding the Nuggets first-time All-Star as Denver headed into the postseason, but in just seven games, Jokic not only answered those questions, but also silenced all doubters.

His offensive play style did not just translate well to the playoffs, but actually became even more lethal that in the regular season. Then Jokic emerged not just as the engine to Denver’s offense, but also as their most consistent and productive two-way player. It did not matter if it was LaMarcus Aldridge, Jakob Poeltl, Rudy Gay, or anyone else on the Spurs roster that Jokic was defending; he had arguably his best seven-game stretch of defensive basketball of his career against San Antonio. Then, as the cherry on top, Jokic played at least 36 minutes in all but two games and never played less that 32 minutes. He actually ended up playing a massive 44 minutes in Game 7 to carry Denver to their series-sealing win.

“We ask him to do so much so 44 minutes in itself is pretty remarkable in a Game 7 for a guy who has never played this many games,” Malone explained after Denver’s 90-86 win in Game 7. “Then you think about how much we ask him to do offensively and defensively. Being the center piece of our offense — a guy that makes plays for everybody throughout the night — and defensively, he is guarding every pick and roll or in the post.”

As the series progressed, it became increasingly clear that the Nuggets were going to need Jokic to carry the load for them. Murray’s inconsistencies plagued Denver’s losses while the likes of Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Malik Beasley struggled to produce as they did in the regular season.

Because of that, Malone had to lean on his superstar center to carry the Nuggets to the promised land despite the fact that Jokic had never been in the playoffs before. That led to Malone playing Jokic a career-high 44 minutes in a non-overtime game.

“I started questioning myself a little bit to start that 4th quarter,” Malone said as he reflected on how much he relied on Jokic to play big minutes in Game 7. “He missed his first three shots and I said, ‘you know what, maybe I should have gotten him out and got him a quick break because maybe that fatigue is starting to kick in’, but then I said, ‘I cant take him out; I have to keep him in the game,’ becase even when he is not making shots, he has a tremendous impact on the game. He creates space for everybody else. Great players make all of the other players around them better and that is what Nikola does every night. That is what we needed.”

Despite Jokic being as exhausted as he has arguably ever been in a basketball game, he continued to battle. Yes, his shots were not falling, but he continue to fight on defense, create open shots for his teammates on offense, and most importantly, became the sense of stability that the young Nuggets roster needed in such a high-stakes game.

“Anytime your best player has that kind of poise and leadership, that will definitely help the younger guys out,” Malone explained. “When things aren’t going our way and they can look to him and they see calmness under pressure and under duress, that is a great thing to have and that is how leadership is shown in many different ways and that is why Nikola is a leader for our team.”

So what is it about Jokic that has allowed him to so effortlessly step into the rigors and pressure of the playoffs and thrive? That question is not easily answered, but the most simplistic way to explain it is that, to Jokic, basketball is just basketball. For him, every game is the same and that calmness is as unique as his transcendent passing ability.

“I think it speaks to Nikola’s greatness,” Malone stated when asked about Jokic’s ability to thrive in his first playoff series. “I think it speaks to him never being afriad of the moment or never being overwhelmed. Like he always says, ‘it is just basketball’. Weather it is regular season Game 54 or it is Game 7, at the end of the day, it is just basketball and that is how he approaches it.”

Now, with his first playoff series under his belt, it is becoming more and more obvious that Jokic’s potential ceiling as a player is still unknown and unquantifiable. He is 24-years-old and already has put together three legendary playoff games while putting up averages over a seven-game series that have not been seen in 56 years.

Regardless, the one fact that is known is that Jokic is not just ready for the spotlight, but flourishes in it.

“You don’t know what is going to happen come playoff time and he has risen to the occasion and beyond,” Gregg Popovich said.

“He is magnificent. Magnificent. I’ll just leave it at that.”