When it comes to good days in the office, they don’t get much more perfect than that of the Serb – sporting a bright red headband – who led with 35 points on his historic night, adding 16 rebounds and six assists.
The reigning MVP’s headgear was donned after Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. accidentally elbowed him in the first minute of the game, as TV footage showed blood pouring from a gash on his head .
Jokic initially returned to the pitch, but as the blood continued to flow, he returned to the bench to be fitted with the headband.
The rest, literally, was history. Jokic scored the feat with just over five minutes to play, heading for the basket before spinning and shooting in a loop towards the basket – the ball bouncing once off the rim before falling and securing the place of the Serbian in the NBA record books.
Cue pandemonium among the home crowd at the Ball Arena, as a subsequent downtime allowed fans to serenade their historic center.
“I will probably remember it all my life,” Jokic told reporters after the game.
“I love how they [the fans] treat me, how they are really on my side. I love the Nuggets fans…they always bring the energy we need.”
Jokic’s achievement will only bolster calls for the four-time All Star to retain his MVP status after a monstrous end to the regular season.
For his trainer Michael Malone, the defense of his title is not in debate.
“MVP isn’t even a competition,” Malone said in his postgame press conference.
“There are other great players. I’m not saying they’re not great players. But what Nikola Jokic has done this year – with this team – everything we’ve had to go through is just amazing.
“He was good last year and he’s even better this year.”
Although Jokic agreed that he’s taken it up a notch this season, his response was more muted.
“I think I had a great season, the whole season, even better than last year,” Jokic said.
“If it’s enough, it’s enough. If it’s not, you can’t control it.”
The playoffs are ready
The victory helped the Nuggets seal a top-six berth in the Western Conference playoffs, condemning the Minnesota Timberwolves to the seventh seed and ensuing qualifying tournament from April 12. .
The Timberwolves’ win over the eighth-seeded team in the West would see them face the Grizzlies in the playoffs, who had already locked down the No. 2 seed in the West.
Still missing star goaltender Ja Morant due to injury, the Grizzlies split the points among all starters and bench players — Desmond Bane leads with 14 points.
Aaron Gordon followed Jokic in scoring for the Nuggets, adding 22 points, with Will Barton and Bones Hyland scoring 16 apiece.