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NBA

Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic makes history in win against Memphis Grizzlies

The ‘Joker’ put in a performance for the ages as he both made history and helped his team clinch a playoff berth.

Paul Rudder
Update:
Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic makes history in win against Memphis Grizzlies
Isaiah J. DowningUSA TODAY Sports

It seems that the man they call the ‘Joker’ is in no mood for jokes of late as he has been nothing but serious business in his performances recently.

Nikola Jokic makes NBA history

Nikola Jokic took another step in his march towards a second successive NBA MVP award when he made history on the same night that his Denver Nuggets clinched a fourth consecutive playoff berth with a 122-109 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. What exactly did Jokic do? Jokic became the first player in NBA history to post 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season. On Thursday night specifically he registered 35 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and five steals. Another top performance by the league’s top player. “Dude is really great at basketball,” teammate Bones Hyland said.

Incidentally, the night didn’t start on a positive note for Jokic, as he took an accidental elbow to the right temple area from Jaren Jackson Jr. in the opening minutes. Blood was actually drawn, which resulted in Jokic having to go to the bench for treatment. Once the bleeding was stopped, he returned to the game albeit with a red headband and proceeded to help his team to grab their playoff berth at the expense of the Grizzlies. Interestingly, this was the first time for the season that the Nuggets got the better of the Grizzlies, for had they lost it would have been a clean sweep for Memphis. Post game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone made it clear where he stands on the MVP debate. “The MVP isn’t even a competition,” Malone said. “There’s other great players. I’m not saying they’re not great players. But what Nikola Jokic has done this year - with this team, everything we’ve had to go through - is just incredible. He was good last year, and he’s even better this year.”

The Denver Nuggets are on the up

Though they were without two key players in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets who are 48-33 still managed to secure themselves a top-six spot in the Western Conference playoffs, while simultaneously avoiding the four-team play-in. If they can win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night and see two losses by the Utah Jazz (48-32), who finish up against the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, they can actually still win the Northwest division. Interestingly, Denver’s win also condemned the Minnesota Timberwolves to the play-in

The Grizzlies knew they were up against it

Having just come off of a tough overtime loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, the Grizzlies knew they were going to be in for a tough time against Jokic and the Nuggets. It should be said, however, that this is not a team in decline, as they just secured their very first division title in the franchise’s history and with it second seed in the Western conference. Despite not getting a positive result, they were certainly positive in attitude post game. “I think we’ve been playing good basketball, even the other night against Utah. Tonight, we just didn’t have it,’’ Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We threw a lot at him,’’ Jenkins said of Jokic. “He’s the MVP for a reason. He’s nearly impossible to guard. He’s going to beat you from inside, outside, playmaking. He played at a really high level tonight.’’

It is of course worth mentioning that the Grizzlies were without All-Star guard Ja Morant who has been in sensational form this season. They are of course hopeful that he will return this weekend from a right knee injury that has seen him absent since March 18.

Bloodied and Battered, Jokic rolls on

Coach Malone couldn’t hide his nerves when asked about the incident that saw Jokic end up bleeding. “My first thought was Steve Nash in that playoff series and they couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Malone said. “And I’m saying, ‘Of all games, Nikola gets a very non-malicious elbow, an inadvertent elbow to the head, and he’s bleeding. I’m saying, ‘Not tonight.’” Malone went on to add that he quite literally begged the trainers to do whatever was necessary to stop the flow of blood. “Like, get a staple gun out here,” Malone said. “And it finally stopped, and Nikola put on another MVP performance.”

As for Jokic himself, the first thing he did was to assure fans that he wouldn’t be copying LeBron James’ headband look despite the need to use one after the cut to his head. “No, I look great,” Jokic said. “I cannot let you guys see me twice like that.” The reigning MVP went on to admit that he did indeed think he was having a better season this year than the one that saw him awarded last year, but he believed there were at least 20 legitimate MVP candidates in the league and that he himself was not promoting the notion that he should be awarded once again. “If that’s enough, it’s enough,” he said. “If not, you cannot control that.” In the end Jokic took home the game ball, but the bloodied headband he claimed with a laugh, would probably be sold on eBay by the trainers.

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