Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic furthers MVP case with brilliant performance in double-overtime win over Grizzlies

by Ryan

As we wind down the final few weeks of the season, the MVP race is really heating up. And if you think of these last 10-15 games as a final audition for the leading candidates, Nikola Jokic nailed his part on Monday night. 

The big man was spectacular, finishing with 47 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Denver Nuggets to a dramatic double-overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies, 139-137. In doing so, he became the first center to put up 45-plus points, 15-plus rebounds and eight-plus assists in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon back in 1996

This one certainly wasn’t easy, as the Nuggets had to go on a 14-2 run over the final few minutes of regulation just to extend the game. Then at the end of the first overtime, they closed on a 5-0 run to send things to another extra frame. The conclusion of the second overtime wasn’t quite as dramatic, but even then they were tied with less than a minute to play, before scoring the final five points.

As expected, Jokic was key in all of those runs. He had six of their 14 points to close the fourth quarter, including two game-tying free throws with less than 30 seconds to play. He hit a key mid-range jumper at the end of the first overtime. And with 42 seconds left in the second overtime, he drained a 3-pointer that put the Nuggets up for good. 

From the beginning of the Nuggets’ run late in the fourth quarter, through the end of the game, Jokic had 19 points, three rebounds and three assists on 8-of-13 from the field. The rest of the Nuggets combined had 18 points over the span. If that’s not an MVP-type statement, what is?

As Nuggets coach Michael Malone put it after the game, “Life is about a bunch of little moments. I think Nikola has got about 56 moments where he should be the MVP.”

For the season, Jokic is now putting up a near triple-double at 26.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game on 56.9/41.9/85.4 shooting splits. Save for the field goal percentage, every single one of those numbers is a career-high. His 47 points against the Grizzlies were also his third game this season with at least 47 points. He had one such game in his previous five seasons combined. 

Even more important was that this big night came in a win for the Nuggets, who have bounced back from Jamal Murray’s season-ending injury to win their last three games. They’re now 37-20 on the season, and all alone in fourth place in the Western Conference, with a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers

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