Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic powers Denver Nuggets to fifth-straight win as they leapfrog LA Clippers for the third seed

The Denver Nuggets just keep on coming.

Led by another huge performance from Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets edged the LA Clippers 110-104 on the road to win their fifth-straight game and leapfrog the Clippers for the third seed in the Western Conference standings.

Jokic is the MVP...right?

Whatever the circumstances, Nikola Jokic continues to deliver for the Denver Nuggets, putting on an MVP-worthy performance against the LA Clippers at STAPLES Center.

Jokic recorded 30 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists on an efficient 9-of-17 from the field and 10-of-10 at the free-throw line.

With the game in the balance in the third quarter, he took over, dropping 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting and then slammed the door shut on the Clippers in the fourth.

Leading by six with 1:08 remaining, he somehow found a wide-open Facundo Campazzo for the game-sealing 3-pointer to put them in front 107-98.

"He showed once again, on the road against a very good team, why he's an MVP candidate in my eyes, the frontrunner for the MVP," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "He continues to put his team on his back."

Despite attempting mind-boggling passes all game, he didn't record a single turnover, making it the third time in his career he's gone for 30/10/5 without a turnover, tying David Robinson for the most such games by a center in the past 35 years, per StatMuse.

Even more impressively, the Nuggets won a tough road game, missing Jamal Murray, Monte Morris, and Will Barton III, with Jokic carrying them to a 9-1 record since Murray went down injured.

While he was the star of the show, Michael Porter Jr. continues to impress as the No.2 option on offence, recording 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists, praising Jokic's leadership post-game.

"This year, he knows this is his team and he's going to go out every single night and be the MVP," Porter Jr said. "He does it night in and night out. He's always available for us. Another thing I respect on the jump from last year to this year is his leadership."

Rondo and Boogie step up

With Kawhi Leonard playing his first game back after missing five with a foot injury and Paul George having an off-shooting night, Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins filled the void off the bench.

George shot just 5-of-21 from the field for his 20 points, while Leonard managed 16 points, six assists and five rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting, appearing to be somewhat hampered by his foot injury.

"It was better tonight," Leonard said. "Obviously, I got to play in the fourth quarter the other night as a blowout of the lead, but I'm feeling good. We took partner steps to get me right, to make sure nothing is significantly wrong with me. Like I said, I feel good. I'm back playing. So hopefully, I just keep moving up from here."

With their two stars struggling, Rondo played his best game in a Clipper uniform, recording a season-high 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting, adding five assists, five rebounds and two steals in 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, DeMarcus Cousins, who the Clippers signed for the remainder of the season, came up with some big plays in crunch time on both sides of the ball.

He finished with 16 points and three rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, combining with Rondo on this alley-oop in the final frame.

Playoff implications

With the win, the Nuggets are now 43-21 on the season, leapfrogging the Clippers (43-22) for the third seed in the Western Conference standings and just 3.0 games back of the Utah Jazz for the best record in the league.

The win also secured the season series for the Nuggets (2-1), giving them the tiebreaker over the Clippers if they finish with the same record.

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