Nothing brings out the best (or the worst) in a player than a prove-it game. The raised stakes and the pressure that comes with it are what separates the contenders and the pretenders. Instincts come in eventually, and those that fight or fly away reveal themselves. As a friend would say, pressure makes diamonds or bursts pipes.

For all intents and purposes, Nikola Jokic has nothing left to prove. He’s an NBA champion and a Finals MVP who is on pace to double the tally for both this year. Jokic is also a three-time NBA MVP with a penchant for triple-doubles and it won’t be surprising if he ends his career with the all-time mark (he’s 69 triple-doubles away from Russell Westbrook’s 199). When it comes to the best player in the game today, Jokic is easily the first one that comes to mind.

But then, he continues to find ways to raise the bar for himself.

Game 5 was a turning point in the Denver Nuggets’ Western Conference Semifinal series with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The road team won the first four games of the series, but the Nuggets won the last two and carried momentum. Jokic then proceeded to ride the wave and take Denver along with him.


The thing with Jokic is that he can be everything and everywhere all at once. The Serbian led the Nuggets in nearly every statistical category in Game 5 and was at the forefront of Denver’s punishing attack. He can throw passes like a quarterback and back down his defender then finesse his way for a nifty layup. In fact, the 29-year old may be the only one who can make four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert look like a lost defender searching for answers.

As great as Jokic is, though, he’s not like your typical NBA player that screams his lungs out and flexes after scoring. You never see Jokic celebrate baskets because he knows his energy is better devoted to making the next best play rather than celebrating something that’s been done already. He also doesn’t throw heat packs to the court in frustration and insteads hustles back on defense and gives his best effort. There’s no flash to Jokic’s game other than the elite passing that sometimes overshadows the shot attempts it leads to.

It’s not necessarily humility, but simply being practical. Do your job and the rest will follow.

The series will shift to Minnesota for Game 6 and while Nikola Jokic knows what to do to close this one out, the Minnesota Timberwolves are still searching for answers. Joker is certainly an apt nickname for Jokic, but with the way he’s been playing and making the Minnesota Timberwolves go around in circles, maybe it’s time for him to take up the mantle of the Riddler.