NBA: Jokic Wins 3rd MVP, Knicks Go Two Games Ahead Against Pacers

Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets added another MVP trophy to his cabinet on Wednesday, taking home his 3rd title in four seasons. Jokic topped Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, who finished second and third in the voting, respectively.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic
Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo

Surprisingly, Jokic’s third MVP win wasn’t very close with him taking 79 first-place votes for a total of 926 points. Second place Gilgeous-Alexander received just 15 first-place votes and ended with 640 points, while Doncic claimed four first-place votes and 566 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks finished fourth and Jalen Brunson from the New York Knicks rounded out the top 5.

With the win, Jokic became the first center in six decades to win MVP three times in four seasons. The last time it occurred was when the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did so from 1973 to 1976. There have been 8 players before Jokic to win the MVP award three or more times:  Abdul-Jabbar (6), Michael Jordan (5), Bill Russell (4), LeBron James (4), Wilt Chamberlain (3), Moses Malone (3), Larry Bird (3) and Magic Johnson (3).

Jokic had a signature season, playing in 79 of the 82 games and averaging 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists. This put him in the top 10 in each statistical category and earned him 25 triple-doubles, second only to Domantas Sabonis of the Sacramento Kings who had 26. 

Jokic is also the second player ever to record 2,000 points, 900 rebounds and 600 assists in a single season, joining Oscar Robertson.

The Nuggets finished 2nd in the Western Conference with 57 wins and 25 losses despite Jamal Murray missing 23 games during the season. Much of the success can be attributed to Jokic’s consistency and ability to produce big stat lines seemingly at will. Jokic led the NBA with a plus-682 plus-minus. 

Despite the terrific regular season performance, Jokic and the Nuggets find themselves in a huge hole against the Minnesota Timberwolves after losing the first two games of th series at home. The Nuggets will need their best player in top form if they are to have any chance of evening out the series in Minnesota in Games 3 and 4.

Knicks Beat Pacers 130-121, Take 2-0 Lead

The New York Knickes defeated the Indiana Pacers 130-121 in a high-scoring affair on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Jalen Brunson returned from a right foot injury in the third quarter to finish with 29 points to lead the Knicks. He came out to a huge cheer from the Madison Square Gardens crowd after missing the entire second quarter while the Pacers surged ahead to a double-figure lead.

OG Anunoby added a career playoff-high 28 points for the Knicks on 10-19 shooting which included 4 from deep. Anunoby also left the game injured, going in for treatment on his left hamstring in the third quarter. 

Donte DiVincenzo added 28 points and Josh Hart had 19 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, playing all 48 minutes. All five Knicks starters ended in double figures as they shot 57% as a team from the floor and 46.7% from three point land.

Tyrese Haliburton had a huge game for the Pacers after a disappointing Game 1, scoring 34 points to go along with 9 assists and 6 rebounds. Obi Toppin had 20 points off the bench and T J McConnell had 10 points and 12 assists. 

The big difference came in the third quarter of the game when the Knicks outscored the Pacers 36-18. The Pacers could never really get back into the game after that spurt, with the Knicks matching each of their runs with one of their own.

The series will now move to Indiana for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday. The Pacers will need to defend home court to have any chance of elongating the series, while the Knicks will want to put away the series fast. Much may depend on the health of Knicks stars Jalen Brunson and OG Anunoby come Friday.