Nikola Jokić isn't just making a compelling case for being the best basketball player in the entire world. He's having one of the greatest playoff runs in NBA history.
For the third time in his career, Jokić has racked up 300 points, 100 rebounds, and 100 assists in a postseason. No other player has done this in Nuggets history, and Jokić has achieved this feat in Round 2 with foreseeably at least one more playoff round ahead of him. Jokić also passed Wilt Chamberlain for the most playoff triple-doubles as a center, now with 11 in total after recording three in Round 2.
His performance against the Phoenix Suns was just outrageous. He became the first player in NBA history to average at least 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in the second round. Plus, he finished just a hair below Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most combined points per game, assists per game, and rebounds per game with 58 in total per contest. He also led the second round in total points scored and total assists, and he was second in total rebounds.
"Nikola never forces anything. I mean, he's a guy that literally will just read the game and take what the game offers," said Michael Malone. "I think sometimes we may take Nikola Jokić for granted because what he is doing is just incredible every single night."
It's true. He took on whatever role his team needed of him to get through the star-laden Phoenix Suns in Round 2, who boasted two all-world scorers in Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.
If his team needed him to distribute? No problem, 17 assists are on the way, like he did in Game 3. Should the Nuggets need help with the scoring load? Gotcha, a 53-point outing is coming right up. His ability to crash the glass might be Jokić's most underrated skillset, highlighted by his 19-board performance in Game 1. Denver is 8-1 in the 2023 postseason when they outrebound their opponent, and Nikola averaged the second-most rebounds in the second round.
Jokić's game-to-game performance against the Suns in Round 2 was reflective of just how malleable of a superstar he is:
- Game 1: 24 points, 19 rebounds, and 5 assists.
- Game 2: 39 points on 56.7 percent field goal shooting, 16 rebounds, and 5 assists.
- Game 3: 30 points on 57.9 percent shooting and 50 percent from three-point range, 17 rebounds, and 17 assists.
- Game 4: 53 points on 66.7 percent shooting and 50 percent from three, 4 rebounds, and 11 assists.
- Game 5: 29 points on 60 shooting and 66.7 percent from three, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.
- Game 6: 32 points on 72.2 percent shooting, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists.
"Nikola is an MVP for a reason. He can take over a game. He can beat you in a lot of different ways. But I love an aggressive Nikola Jokić," said Michael Malone after Game 2. "I love a guy that's getting to the basket and imposing his will upon the other team."
His performance in Game 4 was perhaps the best example of being aggressive and imposing his will on the opposition. Jokić's 53 points were a career-high for him in both the postseason and regular season. He set the Nuggets' all-time record for most points in a playoff game. He also became the first center to ever drop 50+ points and 10+ assists and just the fifth player ever to finish with that stat line in a playoff game.
"I mean, he shows it every night. You've just gotta watch the Denver Nuggets play basketball, man. I think it's pretty simple. He's doing it on TV every day. So, he does it with consistency, he's unmatched. He's got great touch around the rim and he's consistent with it," said Jamal Murray after Game 6.
"Great" might actually be an understatement for how Jokić finished around the rim. He took 13 shots per game against the Suns from the non-restricted painted area (typically where players attempt floaters and hook shots) and made a ridiculous 64.1 percent of his shots. Only Jalen Brunson shot a better percentage for players that took at least 3 non-restricted painted area shots per game in the second round.
His shooting from the midrange was just as lethal versus Phoenix. Jokić made 57.1 percent of his midrange shots in Round 2, second to only Anthony Davis for players that attempted at least 2 in-between shots per game.
His three-point shooting, particularly on above-the-break pick-and-pops, was equally devastating. Jokić canned 44.4 of his above-the-break three-pointers, a top-3 mark for all players that attempted at least 3 per game in the second round.
He scorched the nets from every level of the floor with outrageous accuracy.
“He's unrelenting. That guy is just, he's a worker. Now that guy is, every single day, you never have to worry about Nikola Jokić showing up doing his job. His consistency, I think is just, I marvel at that sometimes," said Michael Malone. "He's able to play at this level as consistently as he does. That's what separates good players from great players.”