Defending MVP Nikola Jokic had a quiet season in Denver, and on Monday night against the Clippers, he did much 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 15 points in the second half, but he took the lead from the front in stoppage time including establishing winning play.
With the game going – the Nuggets led 128-127 in the final seconds of extra time – a double strike, Jokic sent a nearly 50-yard cross to Aaron Gordon to win the game.
Sublime stuff right from the big Serbian.
That assist was Jokic’s No 10 of the game, giving him his third consecutive double. He finished with a final monster 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 season’s highest total score of 49 points is the fourth most in a triple mirrored by a center in NBA history, but Jokic’s impact during key winning moments in the game underscores his impact.
Via 9:20 last minute of the third quarter, as the Nuggets fought back 70-55 to equalize things in the 4th half, Jokic scored (14) or assisted 16 of their 26-11. Then, in extra time, he scored (11) or assisted on 14 of the team’s 16 points, including a 3-goal pointer in the game.
“Do you guys understand how much attention he gets? He’s doubled and tripled in all games and has 49 points,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said after the game. “If Nikola Jokic is not the MVP, then who is?”
This season, Jokic is averaging 25.9 points, 13.9 rebounds and 7.4 rebounds over his career, while scoring a career-high 56.9% from the field in 38 games. These are great numbers to defend your MVP title as proven by his standing on the key leaderboards – The first is ESPN’s PER and 1st on Basketball Reference’s MVP tracker.
But that’s not all. That’s his impact on the floor. When he’s on the field, Nuggets’ real rating is +10.0 but that drops to -12.3 as he sits, which has become the biggest difference between the league’s biggest superstars this season.
On the other hand, the Nuggets’ 23-20 record may not help his case but it does, as they are missing their two core players Jamal Murray (missing all games) and Michael Porter Jr. (missed 34 games), it adds to his MVP case.