NUGGETS

Nikola Jokic takes on several rivals in Nuggets win over Bucks

Jan 29, 2024, 11:57 PM | Updated: Jan 30, 2024, 2:13 am

DENVER—Nikola Jokic said on Saturday that he does not really view any other players or people in the league as his enemies—rather he just focuses on perfecting his craft and making his team the best it possibly can be.

But if Joker does have any rivals, he battled alongside The Blue Arrow and fought a few of his biggest ones on Monday; Greek Freak, Doc, Dame Time, The Beast and The Whistle.

The Denver Nuggets topped the Milwaukee Bucks 113-107, as two of the best players in the game went at each other. Two-time NBA MVP and reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokic tallied a triple-double before the fourth quarter and finished with 25 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists. While fellow Two-time NBA MVP and former Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 29 and snagged 12 boards.

“He’s a freak of nature, he’s so dominant,” the Joker said of Antetokounmpo. “He plays with such a force and power, he really wants to win, it makes him great.”

Freak’s partner Big Game Dame, was held to 18 points by stout Denver defense.

“He’s a great player, we spent a lot of time pregame on him because he’s such a great threat,” Jokic said of Lillard.

As it does when most greats clash, it came down to the final moments. The Bucks led 90-88 with eight minutes to play before the Blue Arrow took off. Jamal Murray scored 12 of his 35 in the fourth quarter while Jokic’s defense stood the test.

“To be honest, that’s why we play. That’s why I play, to play these kind of games, to play under the pressure,” Jokic said. “Tight games, that’s every player’s dream to perform or not in those tight situations. If you don’t it’s a lesson it doesn’t mean you’re a bad player. I love to play under those circumstances.”

It was Doc Rivers first run with the Bucks and their All-Star crew. And for Jokic, it wasn’t just a duel of MVPs. He was going against Rivers, who he encountered in the playoffs to the tune of a famous 3-1 comeback. It was Lillard, whom he’s encountered in the playoffs twice—a win and a loss. There was Jae Crowder, who was instrumental for the Suns in Joker’s lone playoff defeat via sweep. And who could forget Mousa Dagher, who was officiating the Nuggets for the first time since he kicked out Nikola in Chicago earlier this season?

Joker may not care about winning the MVP or the stuff that comes with basketball. He does not view others as his rival, it may be one of the things that makes him as great as he is. His superpower is that he only strives to be better than he’s been in the past—his lone interest in the realm of basketball is the actual sport. But for those of us on the outside watching these adonises combat each other and that tally the docket of the greatest ranks—when we’re watching a clash of rivals battling to be the best, it means something to see which hero wins.

On Monday, the Joker got another laugh as the Nuggets vaulted to a half-game back of best in the west, a marker that could very well be on the line Wednesday against the upstart Thunder.

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