NBA

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."

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    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.

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

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