Is there anything Nikola Jokic can’t do? That was a question presented to Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone following the 22-year-old’s career-high 41 points against the Brooklyn Nets earlier this week. That same question should probably be posed to Denver’s head coach again after tonight’s game.
Three SportsCenter Top-10 worthy plays from Jokic in the first-half of Saturday night’s 125-107 win over the Orlando Magic set the Nuggets’ offense in motion against a Magic squad who had won two straight and four out of their last six, but came into Denver on a back-to-back after their win in Phoenix Friday night.
Jokic’s first stunner was a one-handed tip pass from the middle of the Nuggets’ paint to the opposite corner where he found Will Barton for a three. The second was a Dirk Nowitzki-esque one-footed three from the corner right in front of Denver’s bench. And the third, a halfcourt alley-oop lob to Kenneth Faried that looked to be headed for a collision with the shot clock instead of The Manimal’s mitts, sent set the tone for a first-half where Denver ran up 70 points on Orlando.
Denver’s big man finished with 12 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
Not to be outdone for Jokic’s marvel was Jamal Murray, who rebounded from a four-game stretch where the second-year point guard scored a combined 25 points to set a new career-high with 32 points on 12-21 shooting. Murray was locked in from distance tonight and went 6-9 from beyond the arc.
Murray was sitting on 30 points for a while but Malone subbed the Kentucky product back into the game in the fourth along with the rest of his starters. His 31st and 32 points came on an 11-foot running jumper with 2:57 left in the game.
Murray was boom or bust over his first 11 games this year, as many young point guards are, but it was important for him to get in a rhythm tonight and break out of his mini scoring slump.
Denver’s offense was simply clicking on all cylinders tonight. All of the Nuggets’ starters were in double-figures by the mid-way point of the third quarter and Denver didn’t miss Gary Harris, who was sidelined with right shoulder soreness, as Will Barton stepped into the Nuggets’ starting lineup a and scored 26 points on 8-12 shooting.
After the Nuggets led by as much as 30 at the mid-way point of the third quarter, Orlando outscored Denver 14-8 to start the fourth but the Nuggets were able to quell what looked like a fairly promising Magic rally and cruise to their eighth win of the season.