NBA Hoops

Nikola Jokic scores 40, lifts Nuggets to 3-2 lead vs. Wolves

Nikola Jokic scores 40, lifts Nuggets to 3-2 lead vs. Wolves

DENVER — Nikola Jokic received his third Most Valuable Player trophy from NBA commissioner Adam Silver then celebrated by dominating Rudy Gobert and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Denver Nuggets superstar exploded for 40 points, 13 assists and 7 rebounds with no turnovers to lead Denver to a 112-97 victory Tuesday night in Game 5 at a raucous Ball Arena.

Denver now leads 3-2 in the Western Conference semifinal series and can advance to the conference finals with a win in Game 6 on Thursday in Minneapolis.

“I didn’t see any weaknesses [in our defense],” Minnesota star guard Anthony Edwards said. “I seen the MVP. He showed that he’s the MVP.”

Even by Jokic’s brilliant MVP standards, the center put on a clinic against Gobert, the newly minted four-time Defensive Player of the Year, and the best defense in the NBA this season. Jokic converted 15 of 22 shots but was 8-of-9 when Gobert was his primary defender.

“Incredible,” said Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. “He played amazing. The three-time MVP just dominated the entire game, in every aspect of it. Astounding. That was ridiculous.”

The reigning NBA Finals MVP hit Gobert and the Wolves with a dizzying array of spin moves, hook shots, 3-pointers (two of them) and even some rare dunks in transition.

“I mean, I had the open lane and just — I’m a freak of nature,” Jokic deadpanned of his slams. “And why not show my athleticism.”

Jokic’s night was so good that his opponents couldn’t do much else but laugh. His last 3-pointer was in isolation at the top of the arc against Gobert. Jokic drilled a step-back jumper with Gobert blanketed on him with 3:09 left in the contest. All Gobert could do was hold his arm up high in the air to challenge. As the Wolves called timeout down 14, Gobert’s arm sunk as if all the air had been deflated out of him.

“I just laugh,” Edwards said in reaction to Jokic’s performance. “That’s all I can do. I can’t be mad, because he’s good, man. I think I said that after Game 1, when we won, and Game 2. He’s the MVP. He’s the best player in the…

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