Nikola Joki set a record with a triple-double on Tuesday night, leading the Denver Nuggets to a 118-102 victory against the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
The win gives the Nuggets a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Denver needing just one more win to move to the next round.
The Nuggets were led by Joki, who, as usual, made history with his outstanding all-around performance.
The two-time NBA MVP ended with 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists for his 10th career postseason triple-double, giving him the most by a centre. With the accomplishment, the Serbian pushed past NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain to be alone at his position.
Joki was keen to concentrate on the triumph rather than his personal milestone after the comfortable victory.
“To be honest, I just want to win the game, so whatever it takes,” Joki, who is currently averaging 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists in the series versus the Suns, told reporters.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone, on the other hand, was much more complimentary.
“Nikola never tries to force anything.” “I mean, he’s the type of guy who will literally read the game and take whatever the game offers,” Malone said.
“I think we sometimes take Nikola Joki for granted because what he does every single night is just incredible.”
Joki pushed Suns owner Mat Ishbia only two days before Game 5, but the duo seemed to make up before Tuesday’s game with an embrace.
After a close first half, the Nuggets seized control of Game 5 in the third quarter, erupting for 39 points as emotions between the two teams grew.
In the fourth quarter, Kevin Durant pushed Joki after Denver guard Bruce Brown looked to be attempting to eavesdrop on a Suns huddle. Durant and Brown were both called for technical fouls in the incident.
The Nuggets led by more than 20 points halfway through the fourth quarter, and the Suns removed their starters and raised the white flag.
Brown was a significant contributor for Denver the game, scoring 25 points off the bench, which Joki praised.
“He can push the pace, defend, go downhill, and he had 10 free throws,” added Joki. “Downhill, smashing through that first line of defence… He was fantastic today.”
Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray both contributed 19 points.
The Suns were led by Devin Booker’s 28 points, while Durant contributed 26 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists.
The home team has now won every game in the series, with Game 6 scheduled for Thursday in Phoenix.
Despite the setback and the prospect of elimination, Booker is convinced his team will recover, as they have in the past.
“Yeah. “I’ve been in here a few times,” Booker said to reporters. “I really like it.
“Every game has its own personality.” Every game is its own movie, with its own unique preparation and everything that goes with it. We’re going to look through tape and figure out how we can improve for Game 6.”