Jokic insists MVP race not over as Nuggets win Western showdown

By Sports Desk April 11, 2024

Nikola Jokic said he is not the only player deserving of MVP honours after strengthening his case by putting up 41 points in the Denver Nuggets' crucial victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.  

Jokic is favoured to see off competition from Luka Doncic and be crowned MVP for the third time in four seasons, and he did his hopes no harm in what was arguably the game of the year to date.

The Timberwolves entered the game top of the West due to holding the tiebreaker over the Nuggets, but the reigning NBA champions leapfrogged them with a crucial 116-107 win at Ball Arena.

Jokic added 11 rebounds and seven assists in the 20th 40-point game of his career, shooting 16-of-20 from the field as a big second half carried the Nuggets home in front of a capacity crowd.

Asked what the performance meant for his hopes of landing the league's top individual prize, Jokic said: "I think I'm playing good basketball. The team is playing good basketball,

"I think there is a lot of guys playing really good basketball in the league and a couple of guys deserve to have that award."

The 2021 and 2022 MVP instead preferred to focus on the role of Denver's closers Peyton Watson and Christian Braun, saying: "They were great. 

"P-Wat, it seemed like he was all over the place. He was just full of energy. C.B., with that sequence of two minutes, it was really amazing. 

"I was happy for those guys. They don't get enough credit for what they are doing on the floor, and they're helping us energy-wise, effort-wise. We need them."

Jokic's huge performance came despite him being guarded by the league's top defender in Rudy Gobert, leading Denver coach Michael Malone to describe the Serbian as unstoppable.

"Nikola always embraces the physicality. He never shies away from it," Malone said. "Rudy Gobert is going to be a Hall of Fame player one day. 

"Rudy Gobert is going to be regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation. It just speaks to how great Nikola is. I don't think anybody in the NBA can guard Nikola one-on-one."

Minnesota now need the Nuggets to slip up in one of their final two games, at the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies, to allow them back into the race for the top seed. 

Guard Anthony Edwards, who put up a team-high 25 points, said: "We knew what this game was going to determine.

"If we won it, we knew we were going to possibly be the number one seed. If we lost it, we knew they'd possibly be the number one seed. 

"I think we cared before but now that we lost, we can't do nothing about it."

Related items

  • Finch bemoans Timberwolves' failure to see out win against Mavericks Finch bemoans Timberwolves' failure to see out win against Mavericks

    Chris Finch lamented the Minnesota Timberwolves’ lack of composure in their Western Conference finals Game 1 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.

    The Timberwolves lost 108-105 on the road on Wednesday, failing to hold onto their lead in the final four minutes.

    Minnesota sank just 11 of 18 from the free-throw line and committed five turnovers in the final frame, allowing Dallas to complete a late turnaround. 

    Asked what the biggest problem was for his side in a tight contest, Finch said: "No composure.

    "We haven't really closed quarters very well, closed halves very well over the last handful of games.

    "It cost us a game in the Denver series. It certainly had an impact on this game tonight, too. We've got to be better in clutch moments."

    Mike Conley echoed his coach’s thoughts and believes the Timberwolves can use this as a learning curve.

    "I think we haven't been tested like this where we've had to trade basket to basket, late-game free throw situations or fouling situations, stuff that we have to be better at," Conley said.

    "But we'll learn from it. I think each game we've learned a lot about ourselves, a lot we can get better at. Obviously, it's going to be a long series, regardless of what happened tonight."

    Meanwhile, Luka Doncic starred for Dallas once again, scoring 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to help them over the line to a Game 1 victory.

    The Slovenian admits that the Mavericks wanted to make a statement by winning at home.

    "We had to work really hard to get this one," said Doncic.

    "I think we're known for losing game ones, so we were trying to make a point. But it's only one and we have three more [wins] to go."

  • NBA: Mavericks finish strong in Game 1 road win over Timberwolves NBA: Mavericks finish strong in Game 1 road win over Timberwolves

    Luka Dončić scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and Kyrie Irving added 30 points as the Dallas Mavericks edged the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-105 on the road in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.

    Dallas trailed 102-98 after Anthony Edwards’ 3-pointer with 3:37 remaining but scored the next eight points- five from Doncic - before the Timberwolves scored on a tip-in with 10.5 seconds to play.

    Game 2 is Friday night in Minnesota.

    Jaden McDaniels had his third straight 20-plus point game with 24 points for Minnesota and Edwards, who went scoreless in the third quarter, had 19 on 6-of-16 shooting with 11 rebounds and eight assists. Karl-Anthony Towns needed a late burst to get to 16 points and finished 6 for 20 from the field.

    The Timberwolves hit 18 3-pointers to just six for the Mavericks but were outscored 62-38 in the paint and sank just 11 of 18 from the free throw line.

    P.J. Washington hit a huge 3 during Dallas’ late deciding run and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Irving effectively sealed the win with a pair of free throws with seven seconds left. 

  • Jokic, Gilgeous-Alexander unanimously named to All-NBA first team Jokic, Gilgeous-Alexander unanimously named to All-NBA first team

    League MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder were both unanimous selections to the All-NBA first team.

    Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Boston Celtics guard Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee Bucks were also named to the first team, which was revealed Wednesday.

    Jokic, who has won three of the last four MVP awards, and Gilgeous-Alexander were both listed on all 99 ballots.

    Doncic fell one vote shy of joining them, while Antetokounmpo received 88 first-place votes and Tatum garnered 65.

    New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Los Angeles Lakers centre Anthony Davis were named to the second team.

    The third team was made up of Lakers forward LeBron James, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton and Suns guard Devin Booker.

    This is the 20th consecutive season James has been named to an All-NBA team since being included on the second team in his second season.

    At 39 years old, he became the oldest All-NBA player in league history. He was also the youngest All-NBA selection as a 20-year-old back in 2004-05.

    Jokic, who won the 2023-24 MVP award in a runaway with 79 of a possible 99 first-place votes, was named to the All-NBA first team for the fourth time to go with a pair of inclusions on the second team.

    Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished second in MVP voting, was named to the first team for the second straight season.

    Doncic made the first team for the fifth year in a row, while Tatum is on it for the third consecutive season.

    Antetokounmpo has been on the first team each of the last six seasons after being on the second team the previous two years.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.