With nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, Nikola Jokic had endured, by his standards, a relatively quiet game.
The Serb had 16 points and his Denver Nuggets – having squandered a 21-point lead – were staring down the barrel of a surprise home defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans.
What followed was a devastating display of individual brilliance, as Jokic scored 30 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to drag the Nuggets to a 138-130 overtime victory at the Ball Arena.
In a week of solo masterclasses in the NBA – Ja Morant securing a historic 52-point haul before LeBron James dropped 56 against the Golden State Warriors – Jokic continued the trend with his league-best 17th triple-double of the season.
The 27-year-old added 12 rebounds and 11 assists to his 46 points, the extent of his one-man carry job underscored by three steals and four blocks.
In doing so, Jokic became the first player since 1973, when steals and blocks officially began being tracked, to record such a stat-line, according to the NBA.
For his teammates, Jokic’s performance was a testament to his status as the league’s reigning MVP.
“MANNNN LISTEN!!!!!!! MVPPPP!!!! MVPPPPP!!!!” Nuggets point guard Bones Hyland tweeted, “NIKOLA JOKIC IS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Aaron Gordon, the Nuggets’ second highest scorer with 28 points, was in agreement.
“Phenomenal,” Gordon told reporters, “he’s just different.”
“It’s just not something that you see often. He took over … 30 points in the fourth quarter and overtime? That’s sick.
“He’s an amazing ball player and a spectacle to watch,” Gordon added.
Tatum dazzles against sliding Nets
Jayson Tatum delivered a spectacular display of his own for the Boston Celtics, dazzling the home fans with 54 points in a 126-120 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
The 24-year-old added five rebounds and three assists to inflict a fourth straight defeat upon a Nets team which featured both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Durant impressed with 37 points, six rebounds and eight assists and Irving added 19 of his own, but the night belonged to Tatum, who has enjoyed a stunning start to March.
The three-time All-Star scored 33 points against the Atlanta Hawks and 37 against the Memphis Grizzlies before his explosion on Sunday, helping the Celtics to three consecutive wins.
It makes for ominous foreshadowing for the Charlotte Hornets, who Tatum and the Celtics travel to on Wednesday.
“He’s a shot-maker,” said Durant of Tatum. “He’s an elite shot-maker and he’s been knocking them down, playing with confidence lately.”
Durant became the 23rd player in NBA history to pass the 25,000 career point mark – the seventh fastest to achieve the feat – yet must now rally his team to snap a four-game losing streak.
Like the Celtics, the Nets also face a trip to the Hornets next, with Tuesday’s trip to Charlotte offering them a chance to halt the slide.