In a rare occurrence, Nikola Jokic will miss big Nuggets game

Jan 31, 2024, 1:06 PM | Updated: 2:19 pm

The Denver Nuggets on Wednesday finish what head coach Michael Malone called a key 10 games of the schedule. So far the team is 7-2 over that run, playing a five-game East Coast road trip and a bunch of playoff teams. Though the Nuggets will be finishing the tough slate of games tonight, they’ll be without their star.

Nikola Jokic will not play on Wednesday due to lower back pain. Jokic has been dealing with the issue on and off for a few months now. He also picked up a nasty eye scratch late last week, which ballooned one of his pupils and left his face swollen.

Jokic just defended home court against two of the NBA’s top teams in the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. The Joker was ready to take on the league’s last two MVPs that weren’t him and showed up each night. But the Nuggets arguably have a bigger game on Wednesday, against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Nuggets sit at 33-15, second in The West and a half-game back of Minnesota for first. The T-Wolves topped the Thunder on Monday to stay in first place at 33-14. OKC is a half-game back of the Nuggets at 32-15. The Clippers are right there too, making for a four-team race for top spot in the conference. And the game on Wednesday is Denver’s final matchup of the regular season against the Thunder. So far the Nuggets are 1-2 against OKC, meaning the Thunder can score the head-to-head tiebreaker with a win tonight. Neither team has won on their home floor against the other this season.

Jokic is the current MVP favorite at -110. He is the league leader in win shares at 10, has scored the fourth-most points total this season, has thrown the third-most assists and has snagged the third-most rebounds in the NBA this season. His averages come out to 26.3 points, 12.1 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game—all in line with his MVP-caliber seasons of the past few years. Pacing behind Jokic is Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at +250.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season, the Nuggets are: 272-143 with Jokic and 9-15 without him. He’s played the highest percentage of possible games at just under 95% over that time.

Not only is this possible MVP battle off, but it was a last chance for each team to get a look at possible playoff foe. Maybe Malone is doing some 4D chess, it wouldn’t be the first time.


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