At shootaround ahead of their contest against the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone specifically touched on the outside world's perspective of his team's star player Nikola Jokic.
"The kid is truly in a no-win situation," he told the media . "No matter what Nikola does, no one's ever happy.
"That's why I don't give a sh*t what anybody says. ... I don't worry about Nikola Jokic, I don't worry about his assists, I don't worry about his playmaking, him being unselfish. He's going to make the right play and I trust him wholeheartedly to do so."
The head coach was backing his All-Star centre amidst the criticism he's received the season, and Jokic made him look good for doing so later on that day.
In the actual game against the Hawks, the 24-year-old centre put together the best scoring performance of his career exploding for 47 points on just 25 shots.
Nikola Jokic goes off for a career-high 47 PTS on 16-25 shooting in the @nuggets road W. #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/ZdsFkg00yn- NBA (@NBA) January 7, 2020
Jokic had it going early, scoring 18 points in the first quarter alone. He was more aggresive than usual on the offensive end, going 6-for-9 from the field, knocking down three of his four 3-point attempts.
He went into the half with 27 points - the most he's ever scored in a half - and his production didn't decrease after the break, either.
The Joker went on to score 20 points in the second half by way of 13 points in the third and seven points in the fourth, playing a key role to help his team close out the game with a win.
Jokic finished with 47 points shooting 16-for-25 (64.0%) from the field, 4-for-8 (50.0%) from 3 and 11-for-16 from the free throw line. He also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists while coming up with two steals and a block on the other side of the ball.
This was a statement performance from a player who went from being an MVP candidate last season to someone who has become the target for negativity toward his play so far this season, despite leading his team to one of the best records in the league.
With this win, the Nuggets advance to an extremely impressive 25-11, good for the second-best record in the Western Conference.
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