DENVER — Nikola Jokic made historical past on the night time his Denver Nuggets clinched a fourth consecutive playoff berth with a 122-109 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jokic grew to become the primary participant in NBA historical past with 2,000 factors, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season. He had 35 factors, 16 rebounds, six assists and 5 steals Thursday night.
“Dude is basically nice at basketball,” teammate Bones Hyland mentioned.
Jokic’s massive outing got here after taking an inadvertent elbow from Jaren Jackson Jr. to the best brow and temple that drew blood within the opening minute.
After having to retreat to the bench twice to cease the bleeding, Jokic donned a purple headband for the rest of the sport as he helped the Nuggets (48-33) overcome a shaky begin to keep away from a season sweep by the hands of the Grizzlies.
“The MVP is not even a contest,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone declared afterward. “There’s different nice gamers. I am not saying they are not nice gamers. However what Nikola Jokic has executed this 12 months — with this group, all the pieces we have needed to undergo — is simply unbelievable.
“He was good final 12 months, and he is even higher this 12 months.”
Regardless of lacking stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets clinched a top-six spot within the Western Convention playoffs and prevented the four-team play-in thanks to a different excellent efficiency from the reigning MVP.
They will nonetheless win the Northwest Division with a victory Sunday night time in opposition to the Los Angeles Lakers and two losses by the Utah Jazz (48-32), who end up in opposition to the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers. Denver’s victory additionally locked the Minnesota Timberwolves into the play-in.
Aaron Gordon added 22 factors for the Nuggets.
Desmond Bane had 14 factors for the Grizzlies, who had been coming off an additional time loss at Utah on Wednesday night time after having already captured the primary division title of their historical past together with securing the second seed within the West.
“I feel we have been enjoying good basketball, even the opposite night time in opposition to Utah. Tonight, we simply did not have it,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins mentioned.
Jokic was the most important purpose.
“We threw so much at him,” Jenkins mentioned. “He is the MVP for a purpose. He is practically not possible to protect. He’ll beat you from inside, outdoors, playmaking. He performed at a extremely excessive degree tonight.”
The Grizzlies are hopeful of getting All-Star guard Ja Morant again this weekend from a proper knee damage that has sidelined him since March 18.
Malone mentioned he was involved after seeing Jokic bloodied in such a pivotal recreation for Denver.
“My first thought was Steve Nash in that playoff collection they usually could not cease the bleeding,” Malone mentioned. “And I am saying, ‘Of all video games, Nikola will get a really nonmalicious elbow, an inadvertent elbow to the pinnacle, and he is bleeding.’
“I am saying, ‘Not tonight.'”
Malone mentioned he implored his trainers to do no matter they may to staunch the move of blood.
“Like, get a staple gun out right here,” Malone mentioned. “And it lastly stopped, and Nikola placed on one other MVP efficiency.”
Jokic mentioned he is not going to maintain carrying the headscarf, nevertheless. He’ll go away that look to LeBron James.
“No, I look nice,” Jokic mentioned. “I can’t allow you to guys see me twice like that.”
Jokic agreed he has had a greater season than final 12 months, however he mentioned there are 20 superstars on this league and that he is not himself lobbying for an additional MVP award.
“If that is sufficient, it is sufficient,” he mentioned. “It not, you can’t management that.”
Jokic obtained a recreation ball from the Nuggets as a memento of his historic night time, however he joked the trainers would in all probability promote his blood-soaked headband on eBay.
The Related Press contributed to this story.