How Nikola Jokic continues to shy away from the spotlight is as big a mystery as UFOs and the existence of Big Foot. Okay, maybe that’s a hyperbolic statement, but it seems too good to be true sometimes. The Joker’s humility is as unbelievable as his basketball skills.
It is hard to escape attention when everything you touch turns to gold. Jokic’s post-season run, so far, has been filled with record-breaking and setting performances, which carried on to last night’s Game 3 against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Jokic’s 32 points, 21 rebounds, and ten assists produced the first 30-20-10 performance in Finals history. In addition, Jamal Murray tallied 34 points, ten rebounds, and ten assists– making them the first teammates to simultaneously record 30-point triple-doubles as the Nuggets regained control of the series (2-1) with a 109-94 victory.
Jimmy Butler and the Heat rode the momentum of their Game 2 win as the series moved to Florida. Although, despite having a better start, they could not capitalize when the game went blow for blow down the stretch. Jokic and Murray caught stride as rookie Christian Braun (15 points and four rebounds) also needed a heat check late in the game. The lead continued to swell as Miami couldn’t grit their way out of Denver’s suffocating offense.
In an era of great duos such as LeBron and AD, Steph and Klay, Booker and Durant, Brown and Tatum, and Butler and Adebayo, Game 3 showed us why the best tandem resides in Denver.
“Nikola Jokic makes you a playoff team,” ESPN’s JJ Redick said. “But the play of Jamal Murray, that makes you a championship team.”
Having your two protagonists score 30-point triple-doubles on the same evening is already impressive. What makes it greater is that they are doing it in the NBA Finals for a team who has never been on this stage.
Having a dominant force such as Jokic is already a cheat code. But pairing him with the right dance partner is crucial in bringing the best out of him. The Nuggets did fine last year with Murray out due to injury. But seeing how they play off each other this postseason erases all question marks about how they won the West.
Last night, they scored 32 points from ball screens with each other. Jokic had four assists to Murray, who dished out seven to The Joker in return. So far in this Finals series, they collectively assisted each other 27 times. To say they complement and elevate each other is a gruesome understatement.
They have already managed to be an island on top of the Western Conference through the regular season. They eliminated the Suns and swept the Lakers en route to the promised land. On Wednesday, they made things look incredibly easy against a good team when the stakes were highest.
Murray and The Joker are in a prime position to achieve what some of the best one-two punches in NBA history haven’t done—win a championship. Achieving this feat easily puts them over the likes of Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West, and John Stockton and Karl Malone.
It is too early to count Miami out of this series– you never know what Erik Spoelstra, Butler, and Adebayo can come up with under pressure. However, should Jokic and Murray continue to produce performances like this toward bringing the championship to Denver, they could easily cement themselves as one of the best duos the game has seen.