Many iconic performances have been put on at Madison Square Garden over the years. Now, after dropping 40 in a Nuggets win, Nikola Jokic has one to call his own.
Talk of Nikola Jokic being a future superstar in the NBA was put to rest on Friday night. After out duelling Carmelo Anthony and dropping 40 points in a win at the mecca of basketball in New York, Jokic proved that he is a superstar right now.
Along with his career high 40 points, Jokic added 9 rebounds, 5 assists and two steals on an absurd 74 percent shooting in what was one of the most incredible games played by a Nuggets player in years.
In fact, according to Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post, Jokic becomes just the second Nugget of all time to record 40 points in a single game at Madison Square Garden, after David Thompson did it in 1978.
Jokic scored just four points in the first quarter as he predominantly set up the offense from the high post, distributing to cutting teammates. The Nuggets, paced by Wilson Chandler who scored nine points, led the Knicks by 2 at the first break.
However, the home squad rattled off an 18-5 extended run to take a 12 point lead midway through the second quarter. With the Knicks threatening to bust the game wide open, Jokic scored 11 points in 5 minutes to help the Nuggets back into the game. He made a couple of sweet looking mid-range jumpers to go along with some nice finishes in the post.
The third frame was all Nikola Jokic. He scored 18 points during the period and did it in a variety of ways. In the first minute after halftime, Jokic had nailed both a jumper and beautiful hook shot. He proceeded to get to the free throw line, nail a couple from downtown and pepper the Knicks with jump shots and floaters. He did all this while still crashing the boards and distributing beautifully to his teammates. Through three quarters, Jokic had 33 points and the Nuggets found themselves up by 12.
Nevertheless, the Knicks, led by Carmelo Anthony who scored 21 in a frantic final quarter, hung around in the contest until a steady team effort down the stretch saw the Nuggets pull out a 131-123 victory in New York.
While Jokic was the clear star for Denver, it was a great team game all around. Wilson Chandler contributed 19 points and four rebounds while Jameer Nelson and Gary Harris scores 16 apiece. Will Barton had 15 points and 10 boards off the bench while Darrell Arthur scored 13 points as he replaced the injured Kenneth Faried in the starting line up.
In a vacuum, what Jokic did at the Garden was is incredible. However, when you consider the fact the Nuggets are down three starters and currently on an east coast road trip, it becomes a lot more impressive.
Another aspect to this performance is that Jokic thoroughly outplayed his Knick counterpart Kristaps Porzingis. The Unicorn finished with 17 points and four rebounds on 50 percent shooting and had far less of an impact on the game than Nikola.
Tonight’s performance from Jokic won’t soon be forgotten. He established himself as not just a star of the future, but a star of the present. Nuggets fans should be very, very excited.