Nikola Jokic made a massive MVP statement in a 123-11 win for Denver over Boston in a blockbuster battle of two NBA conference leaders – but there were wild scenes as a broken rim saw the game halted for around 35 minutes.
With the Nuggets leading 110-97 and 6:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, Celtics star Robert Williams III delivered a monster alley-oop jam and hung on the rim – causing it to be significantly tilted to one side.
Six crew members brought out a pair of ladders, made a series of phone calls, and eventually unscrewed the rim from the backboard in the lengthy delay that had TV cameras fixated on the ‘bubble’ of the level placed atop the rim.
Players enjoyed the break by playing rock-paper-scissors with fans courtside, and were given a warm-up once the issue was finally resolved.
But the Nuggets momentum wasn’t halted by the lengthy pause, as Jokic led them to a big victory with a 30 point, 12 rebound and 12 assist triple-double.
Jokic made 10-of-13 shots from the floor, including both 3-point attempts, and went 8-for-8 from the free throw line to produce his ninth triple double of the season.
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The two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player has led the Nuggets to a 24-12 record on the back of 10 wins in their last 12, snapping Boston’s four-game win streak on the way.
No one has sealed three-straight MVP awards since Celtics great Larry Bird (1984-86).
But Nuggets coach Michael Malone declared pre-game that the unstoppable Jokic shouldn’t be counted out.
“If people’s reasons for not giving him the MVP is because he’s won two in a row, that’s lazy,” Malone said.
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“We’re playing a good brand of basketball,” said Denver’s Andrew Gordon, who contributed 18 points – including a sensational reverse dunk on a Jokic alley-oop, six rebounds and seven assists.
“It’s about handling business. We ended up handling business. It’s not about the other team. It’s about the standard that we hold ourselves to. Tonight we held that standard.”
Denver, 14-3 at home, defeated the Celtics for the first time since November 2019.
Bruce Brown added 21 points for Denver while Michael Porter Jr. added 19. Jaylen Brown led Boston with 30 points and eight rebounds while Jayson Tatum contributed 25 points, seven rebounds and six points for the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics, who still have the best record in the NBA at 26-11.
Gordon defended the Boston stars much of the night.
“Those are special players,” Gordon said. “You try to make it difficult for them. You really aren’t going to be able to stop them. You try to make it uncomfortable for them, make their shots difficult, and that’s what we did.”
MORANT’S CLASS ACT AFTER BIG GAME
Ja Morant scored 35 points and New Zealand centre Steven Adams added 11 points and 23 rebounds to spark the host Memphis Grizzlies to a 118-108 victory over Sacramento.
“We took it upon ourselves to step up and deliver,” Morant said, adding eight rebounds and five assists.
De’Aaron Fox led the Kings (19-16) with 19 points while Domantas Sabonis added 18 points and 14 rebounds.
The Grizzlies improved to 23-13, level with New Orleans for second in the West, one game behind Denver.
Morant then made a young fan’s year by gifting him his signed, game-worn sneakers (which are not in stores yet).
Morant said afterwards he noticed the child in the warm-ups, hearing him scream and cheer every shot as he prepared for the game.
“I knew he was a big fan … It leaves you speechless when you see somebody (is) that big of a fan of you, to bust out and cry. It was even more crazy to see his mom crying as well. I know it touched both of their hearts and was a moment they’ll never forget.”
JAPAN STAR EXPLODES OFF BENCH
Japan’s Rui Hachimura came off the bench to score a game-high 26 points in leading the Washington Wizards to a 118-95 victory at Milwaukee.
Latvian centre Kristaps Porzingis added 22 points and Kyle Kuzma contributed his second career triple double with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for the Wizards (17-21).
Washington’s win streak stretched to five games despite the absence of star guard Bradley Beal.
Falling to 23-13, the Bucks were led by 19 points and 10 rebounds from Bobby Portis, and were without Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was sidelined by a sore left knee.
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