Nikola Jokic first with 2K points, 1K rebounds, 500 assists; leads Denver Nuggets to playoff berth

DENVER — Nikola Jokic made history the night his Denver Nuggets clinched a fourth straight playoff berth with a 122-109 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Jokic became the first player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season. He had 35 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and five steals Thursday night.

“Dude is really good at basketball,” teammate Bones Hyland said.

Jokic’s big exit came after inadvertently taking an elbow from Jaren Jackson Jr. to the right forehead and temple which has spilled blood in the opening minute.

After having to retire twice to the bench to stop the bleeding, Jokic donned a red headband for the remainder of the game as he helped the Nuggets (48-33) overcome a shaky start to avoid a season sweep in the hands of the Grizzlies.

“MVP isn’t even a competition,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said afterwards. “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.”

Despite missing stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets clinched a top-six berth in the Western Conference playoffs and avoided the four-team play-off thanks to another standout performance from the defending MVP. .

They can still win the Northwest Division with a victory Sunday night against the Los Angeles Lakers and two defeats by the Utah Jazz (48-32), who finish against the Phoenix Suns and the Portland Trail Blazers. Denver’s win also locked the Minnesota Timberwolves into the play-in.

Aaron Gordon added 22 points for the Nuggets.

Desmond Bane had 14 points for the Grizzlies, who were coming off an overtime loss at Utah on Wednesday night after already winning the Premier League title in their history and earning the second seed in the West.

“I think we played some good basketball, even the other night against Utah. Tonight we just didn’t get it,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said.

Jokic was the main reason.

“We threw a lot at him,” Jenkins said. “He’s the MVP for a reason. He’s almost impossible to keep. He’s going to beat you inside, outside, from the game. He played at a very high level tonight.

The Grizzlies are hoping to recover All-Star guard Ja Morant this weekend from a right knee injury that has sidelined him since March 18.

Malone expressed concern after seeing Jokic bloodied in such a crucial game for Denver.

“My first thought was Steve Nash in this playoff series and they couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Malone said. “And I say, ‘Of all the games, Nikola has a very unmalicious elbow, an inadvertent elbow to the head, and he’s bleeding.

“I say, ‘Not tonight.'”

Malone said he implored his coaches to do whatever they could to stop the blood flow.

“Like, bring a stapler here,” Malone said. “And it finally stopped, and Nikola did another MVP performance.”

Jokic, however, stated that he will not continue to wear the headband. He will leave that look to LeBron James.

“No, I look great,” Jokic said. “I can’t let you see me twice like this.”

Jokic agreed he had a better season than last year, but he said there were 20 superstars in this league and he himself was not pushing for another MVP award.

“If enough is enough, enough is enough,” he said. “It’s not, you can’t control that.”

Jokic received a Nuggets game ball as a memento of his historic night, but he joked that coaches would likely sell his blood-soaked headband on eBay.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.