Is it time to start talking about the Nuggets as serious title contenders?
Denver entered Monday night tied with the Clippers for first in the West, riding a five-game winning streak, and boasting one of the best big men in the game in Nikola Jokic.
But winning in Toronto, against the East’s top team (and No. 1 in NBA.com’s Power Rankings), is no easy feat. That task became even trickier once Gary Harris, Denver’s top scorer, was forced from the game after the first quarter with a sore right hip.
Enter The Joker.
Jokic did a bit of everything, tallying his second triple-double this season with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists (more on those below) to lead Denver to a 106-103 win over Toronto, snapping the Raptors’ eight-game winning streak.
Jokic also knocked down three game-winning free throws in the final 7.0 seconds to ice the game and put a bow on the Nuggets’ signature win this season.
“This is a winning team,” Jokic said afterward. “This is a hell of a team. Everybody stepped up.”
This is uncharted territory for the Nuggets as this is the latest they’ve been in first place since 1984-85. There’s still a lot of season to be played, but everything seems to be falling in place for Jokic and Nuggets.
(Including this ridiculous shot. It didn’t count.)
This didn't count but HOLD UP! 😱 pic.twitter.com/iGDONySlsM— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 4, 2018
Not to be outdone, the Clippers -- who slipped to No. 3 in John Schuhmann’s Power Rankings -- picked up a thrilling 129-126 win in New Orleans to keep pace with Denver atop the West.
Tobias Harris, who was named Western Conference Player of the Month earlier in the day, led the Clippers with 27 points, but it was Lou Williams who clinched the win, hitting a clutch off-balance jumper with 6.4 seconds left.
After the Warriors cruised to a 128-111 win in Atlanta, Stephen Curry was honest about the frequent comparisons between him and Hawks rookie Trae Young.
“Honestly, it’s getting old," Curry told reporters.
But we can’t help ourselves, so here are just a couple comparisons from Monday’s shellacking.
Stephen Curry: 18
Hawks combined: 17
3-pointers made in game
Stephen Curry: 6-for-10
Hawks combined: 5-for-26
Steph vs. Trae
Curry: 30 points (10-for-17 FG, 6-for-10 3FG), 3 turnovers
Young: 20 points (8-for-20 FG, 0-for-5 3FG), 7 turnovers
Coaches are notorious for using props as motivational tools, but David Fizdale of the Knicks has taken it to another level.
According to Alan Hahn of the MSG Network, the Knicks have begun carrying an axe – yes, an actual axe – with the team wherever they go. Fizdale has made the axe a symbol of the Knicks’ approach spoken of slowly but steadily "chopping away" at whatever challenge they face.
Alan Hahn explained the mysterious symbol (he wasn’t even allowed to video or photograph the sacred talisman) and what it represents for the young Knicks.
“The axe is just a symbol of us chopping this tree every day, putting in the work with the right attitude … No matter what happens, we stick together and we keep chopping the tree together.”
Stat of the Night
In the last 30 years, Nikola Jokic is the only center to have 15 or more assists in a game. (He’s done it three times in his career.)
Nikola Jokic is the only center in the last 30 years to have 15 or more assists in a game, per @ESPNStatsInfo.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) December 4, 2018
Tonight is the third time he's done it in his career.
Quote of the Night
“He does everything. He passes, rebounds, handles the ball. There’s nothing he really can’t do, except jump.”
-- Denver’s Jamal Murray, on Nikola Jokic
Game-Winner Of The Night
In just his third game with the Cavs since being traded from Utah, Alec Burks threw down a monster dunk with 3.2 seconds left to lift Cleveland past the Nets 99-97. Burks, who was part of the deal that sent Kyle Korver to Utah, finished with 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
''He just made a fantastic, athletic play,'' coach Larry Drew said. ''It was a clear-out for him and he just made a terrific move, got to the basket. I drew up the play, but he made it happen.''
Give And Take
John Wall didn’t have the best night on the defensive end …
John Wall? Hello? pic.twitter.com/hVinKQEKig— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) December 4, 2018
But he made up for it with a clutch bucket to seal the Wizards’ 110-107 win at the Garden:
Haters Gonna Hate
When your team is 5-19, mired in last place and getting hammered by the defending champs, you come up with ways to stay engaged. Kevin Durant discovered as much in Atlanta, as Hawks fans serenaded him with a personalized heckle.
🗣 "Draymond hates you"— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 4, 2018
Hawks fans trolling KD at the FT line 💀 pic.twitter.com/2Pmwab2g4a
On Players Only night on NBA TV, Chris Webber put forward the following question: Who scored the most total points in each of the last four decades? Can you name them all?