In a league made up of instant star teams that pins its hopes on a new superstar duo every summer, it's sometimes easy to forget how deadly Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are combined. The Nuggets stars have been playing together for 7 years, and their almost blind coordination has a huge added value - as demonstrated tonight (Wednesday through Thursday) in Game 32 of the NBA Finals.
Jokic and Marie had long since learned how to fertilize each other, and tonight it led to an explosion. Jokic had 21 points, 10 rebounds and 34 assists, 10, 10 and 30 — and together they became the first NBA duo — in a playoff game or regular season — to record a triple-double of 31 points or more in the same game.
Jokic and Murray almost single-handedly dismantled the Heat. They grabbed more rebounds than all five Miami players (25 vs. 20), dished out more assists (12 vs. 66) and scored the same number of points (59). Overall, after three games in the series, for their first time in the Finals, Jokic and Murray are averaging a combined 3.20 points, 7.19 rebounds and 3.53 assists. Just for comparison's sake, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant finished their first Finals series together as a duo, averaging less well (6.21 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.<> assists), so if Denver's stars continue at this pace, they will also statistically prove that they are on their way to becoming a duo on a historic scale.
The best duo in the NBA, period. Jokic and Marie (Photo by Getty Images, Jamie Schwaberow)
"I've been coaching Nikola for 8 years and Jamal 7, and we've had some nice moments along that journey, but no one has been to the NBA Finals," Denver coach Mike Malone boasted. "The way they made history today together, it's just tremendous. No pair has ever reached such numbers. What's nice about all of this is that we also won. In addition to their offensive contribution, they also guarded very well today, contributing in all aspects. I think it's by far their biggest game as a duo in the seven years they've been playing together."
Malone explains that what makes Jokic and Murray such a successful duo is the extraordinary chemistry between them. "A lot of players just play with each other. These guys play for each other," he says. "Leave the statistics aside, today I felt both sharp and focused just right in such an important game. Nicolas proves time and time again that he's built for big games. He thrives in moments like this."
Jokic became the first player ever to reach 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a Finals game, but as usual, he doesn't care about statistics and isn't impressed by America's obsession with "meaningless" numbers. "To be honest, I just don't care. For me, it's just a number, it has no meaning," Jokic said when asked about his historic achievement.
Jokic already has 10 triple-doubles in this playoffs, more than any player ever. Jamal Murray, too, knows that "he just makes it look easy. The man grabbed 21 rebounds today, and everyone says he can't jump... 30 points, and everyone says he can't score... He's just a special player. I've run out of words to describe him."
The key man? Christian Brown (Photo by Getty Images, Megan Briggs)
Denver praised the X-factor of the game, Christian Brown, who scored 15 points and was one of the key players in the Nuggets' escape in the second half. "I told him he won the game for us. His energy, his focus, his attitude... These are things that win big games," Nikola Jokic said, taking off his hat: "He's a champion, he's a winner, he's making winning moves."
"I felt like my confidence just poured out of him today. It was tremendous," Mike Malone added.
- Denver Nuggets
- Nikola Jokic
- Jamal Murray