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Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone has viewed a lot of top-notch performances from the club’s star tandem of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
So he didn’t have any trouble assessing their efforts in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
“By far their greatest performance as a duo in their seven years together,” Malone said.
Jokic produced a historic stat line of 32 points, 21 rebounds, and 10 assists, and Murray also had a triple-double of 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists as the Nuggets pounce on the Miami Heat, 109-94, to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, June 7 (Thursday, June 8, Manila time).
Jokic became the first player ever to log at least 30 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists in an NBA Finals game.
The Serbian center owns three of the 30-20-10 performances in NBA postseason history. The only two others came from Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
As Malone also correctly pointed out, it is the first time two players on the same team have scored 30 points during a triple-double in NBA history.
“Regarding Nikola, nothing he does surprises me, ever,” Malone said. “The guy has shown over and over again that he’s built for these moments. He thrives on these moments, the biggest stage, and he did that again tonight. …
“Jamal is a guy that thrives, lives and excels in the moment. Never afraid of it and you can’t say that for a lot of players. … Jamal missed our last two postseasons (with a knee injury). He’s been dying to get back to this setting and just go out there and put on the performance that he’s putting on.”
The Nuggets are two victories away from their first NBA title after the stellar showings by their star tandem.
“Running out of things to say,” Murray said of Jokic. “He makes the game look easy.”
Jokic, as is his custom, downplayed his memorable performance.
“I’m just glad we won the game,” the two-time league MVP said. “It was a big one for us just because they won in our arena. We just didn’t want to go down 2-1.”
The Nuggets also drew key contributions from rookie Christian Braun, who scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting off the bench; and Aaron Gordon, who had 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Denver shot 51.2% from the field but was just 5-of-18 (27.8%) from three-point range. The Nuggets had a 58-33 rebounding advantage and a 60-34 edge in points in the paint.
“They just pummeled us in the paint,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They didn’t even have to shoot threes… we didn’t offer much resistance.”
Jimmy Butler scored 28 points and Bam Adebayo added 22 points and 17 rebounds for the Heat, who trailed by as many as 21 points.
“We didn’t play our best tonight,” Butler said. “We got to come out with more energy and effort.”
Game 4 is Friday night at Miami. – Rappler.com