3 most insane things from Nikola Jokic’s Game 5 performance in Nuggets’ win vs. Timberwolves

Tony Nguyen | Denver Nuggets
May 15, 2024

The Denver Nuggets heard all the criticism everyone hurled at them when it looked like they have finally met their match in the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team that has good size at every position that looked as though they were on the precipice of dethroning the reigning champion. Nikola Jokic, in particular, was once again the subject of criticisms aplenty when he won the third league MVP of his career, putting him in historic territory.

Now, a few of those fans who thought Jokic and the Nuggets’ time was up are eating their words in the aftermath of perhaps the most dominant playoff performance in recent memory. It did not matter what the Timberwolves threw at Jokic in Game 5, the three-time MVP ate them up all the same. Buoyed by a third quarter performance that must be seen to be believed, Jokic finished the Nuggets’ 112-97 win over the Timberwolves with 40 points, seven rebounds, and 13 assists, and in classic efficient fashion, he only missed five of his 21 shots and turned the ball over a grand total of zero times.

On Tuesday night, Nikola Jokic had a masterclass of epic proportions, and he justified his MVP award even though his body of work already speaks for itself. Just to put in perspective how unique of a game the Nuggets star had in his domination of the Timberwolves in Game 5, Brett Siegel of ClutchPoints pointed out that he has become just the second player in league history to put up 40+ points and 10+ assists in a single playoff game without turning the ball over, joining Chris Paul, who accomplished the feat in 2018, in that ultra-exclusive club.

There are simply no wasted possessions when it’s Jokic who commandeers the offense. He made the Timberwolves bend to his will, and now, the Nuggets are one win away from returning to the Western Conference Finals.

Nikola Jokic’s third quarter on loop

With 9:47 left in the third quarter, the Nuggets had to call a timeout after the Timberwolves went on an 11-3 run to begin the second half. Minnesota looked like they found a second wind, forcing Denver to reassess things before they get into a Game 2-like groove. The Nuggets then proceeded to outscore Minnesota 35-19 to end the period, keeping them at arm’s length the rest of the way thanks to Nikola Jokic’s dominance.

Jokic had an answer for every attempt at a comeback the Timberwolves had; he took it upon himself to score against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert, and he was simply unstoppable as he combined his elite footwork, dogged physicality, and buttery touch to make the Timberwolves’ defense submit. The Nuggets star finished the third quarter with 16 points on 6-7 shooting from the floor to go along with three rebounds, and four assists — which set a record in the process.

According to NBA analyst Nate Duncan, Jokic “is the only player with so many points on so few shots and so many assists in a playoff quarter” in the play-by-play era (since the 1996-97 season).

Of course, Jokic’s dominance did not end in the third quarter. In what might be the most backbreaking shot of the night, the Nuggets star drained a stepback three over Gobert with less than three minutes to go to seal the game.

Ragging on Gobert for his inability to stop Jokic may be the response of some. But doing so is simply unfair to the three-time MVP. No matter who is in front of him, Jokic is able to dominate. There is simply no stopping Jokic when he gets into this kind of a rhythm. All defenses can do is hope he misses, and he didn’t do much missing on Tuesday night.

Stats show that the Nuggets star, indeed, is the most valuable player

Putting points on the board is the name of the game. The best players in league history are typically players who can do it all on offense, and at present, there is no one who embodies this star quality better than Nikola Jokic does. During the Nuggets’ Game 5 victory, Jokic was directly responsible for 71 of his team’s 112 points. (He scored 40 and assisted on 31 of his teammates’ points.)

Per OptaSTATS, Jokic became the first player in NBA history to ” to score or assist on 70+ points in a playoff game without committing a turnover (since turnovers were first tracked in 1977-78)”.

Moreover, Jokic became just the second center since 2000 to score 40+ points in five or more playoff games, joining Shaquille O’Neal, per StatMuse. His playmaking also continues to set him apart; he has the most 10+ assist games as a center in league history, with 20, and he has four more such games than the than the second, third, fourth, and fifth-placers have combined.

If this does not convince someone of the Nuggets star’s greatness, then nothing will.