Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray carved out a slice of NBA history on Wednesday, both notching 30-point triple-doubles as the Denver Nuggets downed the Miami Heat 109-94 to regain the upper hand in the NBA Finals.
“I think it’s the first time in Finals history, or maybe NBA history, that two guys have 30-10 triple-doubles, so that’s incredible right there,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of his star duo’s feat.
They’re the first teammates to post triple-doubles in the same Finals game, and the first teammates to each post 30-point triple-doubles in the same game — regular season or playoffs.
Malone called it incredible, but he wasn’t surprised.
“Regarding Nikola, nothing he does surprises me, ever,” Malone said of the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player from Serbia.
“He makes it look so easy,” added Murray of Jokic. “Just free throws, his touch, his creativity, his no-look passes, his IQ. I could go down the line. He’s a special, special player.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra noted the synergy between Jokic and Murray, which Murray said was born of trust.
“I’d say it’s a trust and a feel, that’s the best way for me to put it,” he said. “It’s not really X’s and O’s. It’s just reading the game and trusting that the other is going to make the right play.
“If he throws it to me, he knows and expects what to see from me, and he knows the mood I’m in, the intensity I’m playing with, whether it’s low or high, time and score, and vice versa.
“I know when he’s overpassing, I know when he’s looking to score, I know when he’s the best player on the floor, I know when he’s taking a second to get into the game.
I think it’s just a feel and a trust that we’re going to figure it out, and it’s a lot of unselfishness, like I keep bringing that up. It’s free flowing.”
Jokic said it boiled down to the respect that has developed between the two over the course of seven years.
“He’s playing phenomenal, I think, the whole playoff,” Jokic said of Murray. “His energy is amazing, and we are just following.”
But Jokic said the Nuggets are more than a two-man band — and must be if they want to lift the first NBA title in franchise history.
“It’s not just us,” he said. “Like I said even before the series started, Denver Nuggets need to beat Miami, not me and Jamal and whoever is on the other side. We as a group need to beat them.”
With that in mind, Jokic wasn’t disposed to dwell on his historic stat line or ponder whether he agreed with Malone that Wednesday’s game was his and Murray’s “greatest performance as a duo in their seven years together.”
“I don’t know. We’re just trying to win a game right now,” Jokic said. “We can think about that later.”