Superstar center Nikola Jokic had another huge game on Tuesday as the Nuggets took a 3-2 lead in their series with Phoenix, racking up 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists for his fourth triple-double of the playoffs. Jokic’s 10th career postseason triple-double moved him ahead of Wilt Chamberlain for the most triple-doubles by a center in NBA playoff history, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
Discussing Jokic’s historic performance after the game, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone made light of the in-season discourse surrounding his center’s triple-doubles, joking that he “must be stat-padding.” Malone also made sure to stress how much the franchise appreciates Jokic and his “incredible” performance.
“He makes everyone around him better,” Malone said. “Never gets rattled. ‘Cool Hand Luke.’ And we’re just so thankful that he’s a Denver Nugget.”
Between Games 4 and 5, Jokic was hit with a $25K fine for a brief sideline incident involving Suns owner Mat Ishbia, but Jokic and Ishbia had a friendly exchange prior to Game 5 and clearly don’t have any bad blood, notes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. During a TNT interview after Tuesday’s win, Jokic was asked about that pregame interaction with Ishbia and joked that he was trying to see if the Suns owner would pay his fine (Twitter link via Youngmisuk).
Here’s more from around the Northwest:
- As great as Jokic has been against Phoenix, the contributions of the Nuggets‘ role players – starting with a pair of veterans acquired last summer – shouldn’t be overlooked, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (subscription required). Bruce Brown‘s 25 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s strong defense on Devin Booker helped Denver secure a Game 5 victory.
- While fans in Minnesota were upset about Jaden McDaniels‘ absence from this year’s All-Defensive teams, the bigger concern for the Timberwolves is that Rudy Gobert‘s play this past season didn’t earn the three-time Defensive Player of the Year a single vote, says Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. It remains to be seen whether Gobert was more affected by health issues than he let on his year or whether his decline has begun, Rand writes.
- Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman believes it’s unlikely that the Thunder dip into their stash of future draft picks to make a trade for a core player this offseason. In Mussatto’s view, head of basketball operations Sam Presti is more likely to use his draft assets to make sure he gets the player(s) he wants in this year’s draft, like he did when he traded three protected first-rounders for the No. 11 pick in the 2022 draft.