Another night, another record-setting performance for Nikola Jokic. This time, in the NBA Finals. With 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists in the Denver Nuggets‘ 109-94 win over the Miami Heat in Game 3 on Wednesday night, Jokic became the first player in NBA history to have a 30-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist game in the Finals.
As expected, he could not care less. All he wanted was the right result, which moved the Nuggets within two wins of the first title in franchise history.
“I mean, to be honest, not much,” Jokic said, when asked what the record means to him. “I’m just glad that we won the game. It was a big one for us just because they won in our arena, so we didn’t want to go down 2-1.”
Jokic’s career is littered with notes about him reaching statistical milestones, but even for him this one is pretty special. There have been well over 100,000 NBA games played between the regular season and playoffs, and this was the 46th time that someone has had a 30/20/10 performance. Even more stunning is that there have only been five such outings in the playoffs, and Jokic now has three of them, with two coming during this postseason.
“Regarding Nikola, nothing he does surprises me ever,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “This guy has shown time and time again that he’s built for these moments. He thrives in these moments, the biggest stage. He did that once again tonight.”
In between Games 2 and 3, much of the conversation was about the Heat’s ability to take away some of Jokic’s passing game and turn him into a scorer. Though Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra scoffed at that notion, it was notable that the Nuggets lost despite 41 points from Jokic, and moved to just 6-9 between the regular season and playoffs when he had six or fewer assists.
There will be no such conversation after Game 3, as Jokic did whatever he wanted all night long. He rebounded the Heat’s first miss, assisted the Nuggets’ first basket to Jamal Murray — who had his own 30-point triple-double — and scored their third basket himself in what turned out to be a fitting start to a historic night.
“You know, I’ve been with Nikola for eight and Jamal for seven years now, and we’ve had some pretty good moments, but not in the NBA Finals,” Malone said. For those guys to make history the way they did tonight, no one has ever done that. I mean, that’s what’s really neat about it. You get the win.
“Our guys understood Game 2 was not who we are. It’s not who we can be, especially at this stage of the season, and they responded like they always do. That’s one thing I know about our group: When we don’t play well, we own it, and we find a way to be resilient and get back to playing Denver Nugget basketball, and that’s what we did tonight.”