Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic has been quietly hanging out all season in Denver and on Monday night against the Clippers, he did more of the same.
In fact, he could have outdone himself and played one of his best games of the season. Not only did he lead the Nuggets back from a 15-point second-half deficit, he also led from the front in overtime, including setting up the game-winning play.
With the game on the line, the Nuggets trailing 128-127 in the closing seconds of overtime, in a double team, Jokic throws a crossover pass nearly 50 feet to Aaron Gordon for the game-winning 3-pointer.
AARON GORDON GIVES THE @Nuggets WIN IT 🔥
Nikola Jokic hits the triple-double on the crossover pass to give Denver the win in overtime! pic.twitter.com/AHJIMHKWbc
— NBA (@NBA) January 20, 2022
Superhuman stuff right there from the great Serbian man.
That assist was Jokic’s 10th of the game, giving him a third straight triple-double. He finished with a monstrous final stat line of 49 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals while shooting 16-of-25 from the field and a near-perfect 14-of-16 from the free throw line.
The highest tally of the season of 49 points is the fourth major in a triple-double by a center in NBA history, but it’s Jokic’s impact in key game-winning stretches that underscores his impact.
During the final 9:20 of the third quarter, when the Nuggets rallied from 70-55 to tie things up heading into the fourth quarter, Jokic scored (14) or assisted on 16 of his 26-11 run. Then, in overtime, he scored (11) or assisted on 14 of the team’s 16 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer.
He’s doing it all out there‼️ pic.twitter.com/nfMUbQOlRI
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) January 20, 2022
“Do you guys understand how much attention he gets? He gets double and triple team the whole game and has 49 points.” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said after the game. “If Nikola Jokic isn’t the MVP, who is?”
For the season, Jokic is averaging a career-high 25.9 points, 13.9 rebounds and 7.4 rebounds while shooting a career-high 56.9 percent from the field in 38 games. These are great numbers to defend your MVP title with, as evidenced by his position in key rankings: 1st in ESPN’s PER and 1st in Basketball Reference’s MVP tracker.
But that is not all. It is your impact while on the ground. When he’s on the court, the Nuggets’ net rating is +10.0, but it plummets to -12.3 when he sits down, which has to be the biggest gap between the league’s biggest superstars this season.
At first glance, the Nuggets’ 23-20 record might not be helping their case, but in reality, they’re missing two of their main players in Jamal Murray (he missed every game) and Michael Porter Jr. ( he missed 34 games), adds to his MVP case.