On Monday night, Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets to a 97-87 victory over the Phoenix Suns. The victory gave the Nuggets a 2-0 series lead over the Suns in the Western Conference playoffs. Jokic scored 39 points and grabbed 16 rebounds the night before the NBA MVP award was announced.
“I love an aggressive Nikola Jokic,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone after Jokic knocked down 17 shots to counter an off-night by Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., who combined to miss 17 of 22 attempts. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
“There’s a reason why Nikola is an MVP,” Malone remarked. “He can dominate a game. He is superior to you in a variety of ways… I like a player who can pressure the other team by driving to the hoop and scoring. And man, that fourth quarter, they only scored 14 points, shot 28% from the field, and were 0 for nine from beyond the arc?
Devin Booker led Phoenix with 35 points, while Kevin Durant added 24, but the two combined to miss a staggering 32 attempts, including 14 from long range. Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 24 points.
Jokic had an outstanding performance the night before he found out if he had prevailed over Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo to win his third consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award, which was recently renamed after Michael Jordan.
“I can’t even think about that,” Jokic told the reporter.
The reason for this, according to Malone, is that Jokic is driven by something other than the prospect of earning other MVP awards but rather by the chance of guiding the Nuggets to their first NBA championship.
It would be a significant achievement for him to win it three years in a row, so if he does, we will celebrate and be delighted for him. Malone noted that a select few players in the annals of NBA history had achieved this feat. Even if he doesn’t take home the trophy, I will congratulate him on being the most valuable player and give him a big embrace.
He demonstrated why on Monday night, when 26 of his points and 12 of his rebounds came after halftime, when he dominated at both ends of the floor, preventing the Suns from having a chance to even the series before Game 3 switches to Phoenix on Friday night.
“It was that kind of game,” Jokic stated of the contest. My colleagues required me to take a more assertive stance.
During this series, the Phoenix Suns have been outscored by 30 points from long range.
“You’ve got to believe that it’s going to come our way here soon,” said Monty Williams, the head coach of the Suns. “We have no choice but to return to our homes and see to our obligations. That’s where we are at the moment.
The Suns could limit Murray to just 10 points forty-eight hours after his career-high scoring performance of 34, but they had no answers for Jokic.
“Slowed down Murray a bit,” Durant advised. “It was clear that he was only getting warmed up for the first game. But Jokic was exerting an excessive amount of effort. We limited them, scoring 97 points in total. Typically, this results in a win for us.
Jokic’s huge night was crucial since Murray shot only 3 for 15 and missed all nine of his 3-point attempts after making six of 10 in the first game, while Porter scored just five points on two makes out of seven attempts from the field.
Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope contributed 16 points for the Nuggets, and Caldwell-Pope scored a perfect 4 for four from beyond the arc. Caldwell-Pope’s back-to-back three-pointers early in the fourth quarter helped the Nuggets overcome a 73-70 deficit and take the lead for good.
Chris Paul of the Suns went down with an injury late in the third quarter, and he ended with 8 points before he went out.
Williams said it seemed like the man was “boxing out.” He suddenly found himself in a position in which he was unable to push off of it or do anything else. It seems to be something in the groin region. Therefore, we should have more information tomorrow.
Suns: The Suns could hold the Nuggets to their lowest-scoring first quarter of the whole season, as they only allowed 18 points… The Suns did not attempt a single free throw throughout the first half of the game… Paul ended the game with 8 points.
Jokic had a big first half for the Nuggets, scoring 11 of Denver’s first 14 points but just 13… The Nuggets scored 68 points at halftime in the series’ opening game, but they only hit 16 of their first-half shots on Monday night.