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Nikola Jokić Caps 49-Point Performance With Stunning Pass to Set Up Game-Winner

In Friday’s Hot Clicks: Joker strengthens his MVP case, an outrageous goal by a 15-year-old in Brazil and more.

You have to love this guy

Games like the one he had Wednesday night against the Clippers are the reason why Nikola Jokić is well on his way to his second straight MVP award. He had 49 points on 16-of-25 shooting with 14 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals.

And the Nuggets needed every bit of that stellar performance to eke out a 130–128 overtime win over Los Angeles. Jokić scored nine of Denver’s final 11 points in regulation (and assisted on the other basket) and scored 11 of his team’s 16 points in overtime.

His biggest play of the night, though, was his assist on Aaron Gordon’s game-winning three-pointer.

With the game tied at 127 and the clock ticking down from seven seconds, Jokić was double-teamed by Amir Coffey and Ivica Subac on the right wing. Both players smothered Jokić with their arms raised high as Luke Kennard rotated to cover Jokić’s nearest open teammate. That meant that the only unguarded Denver player was Gordon, all the way over in the opposite corner, and there was no way Jokić could find him, right? But Jokić somehow lofted a pass over the outstretched arms of the 7-foot Zubac that landed perfectly in Gordon’s waiting hands and he drilled the game-sealing three-pointer.

“I knew the ball was going to come to me because Jok makes the right play, the right pass, even in pressure situations,” Gordon told reporters. “He put it on time and on target. All I had to do was catch and shoot.”

Jokić has to be the only player in the NBA capable of making that pass. There are plenty of smaller players who are outstanding passers, but they wouldn’t be able to get rid of the ball, or see that far down the court with a 7-footer draped all over them. Jokić is not only big enough to beat that supersized double-team and precise enough to put the ball exactly where Gordon needed it, but he also has the awareness to know exactly where Gordon is going to be and the confidence that he’s going to make a difficult play at a critical juncture without turning the ball over.

The middle of January is awfully early to be calling the MVP race, but Jokić, with his inventive passing and lethal below-the-rim game, is showing again why he’s the most intriguing player in the NBA. You might say he’s demonstrating his value. 

In case you missed it

If you missed Hot Clicks on Wednesday, I had an important announcement in there about the future of the column. The short version is that it’s ending. The longer version is that I’ll be writing a daily newsletter instead that will maintain much of what made Clicks so popular. 

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Here’s what I wrote on Wednesday: 

Taking over Hot Clicks in April 2018 was an exciting opportunity for me and I’ve been grateful to be embraced over the years by readers who said they had been Hot Clicks fans since Andy Gray or Jimmy Traina was writing it, and to develop a new audience of my own. Because I know there is a significant audience that enjoys reading me every day, I want to be upfront in announcing that the last Hot Clicks will be on Friday.

But I promise this isn’t as drastic as it seems. I’m not leaving SI, just slightly shifting my role. Instead of writing Hot Clicks every day, I’ll be the writer for SI’s newly reimagined flagship daily newsletter. You can sign up to receive it here (the current name is “SI Extra,” but that will be changing). From pretty much the time I started writing Clicks, I’ve wanted to distribute it as a newsletter. For a bunch of boring technical reasons (mostly related to the embedded tweets and highlight videos), that wasn’t easy to pull off. So the newsletter will be formatted differently than what longtime readers are used to, but I intend for it to deliver the same sorts of things this audience has become accustomed to over the years. It’ll be comprehensive and informative about the biggest sports stories of the day, but it’ll also touch on things off the beaten path and the goofy minutiae that make being a sports fan fun.

I’ll take next week to get the hang of the new newsletter format before it officially launches on Jan. 31. You can sign up to receive it directly in your inbox by clicking this link (again, look for “SI Extra”), but it’ll also be published as an article right here on SI.com if you’d prefer to read it that way. I’m excited for this change of direction and I hope you’ll come along with me. 

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Email dan.gartland@si.com with any feedback or follow me on Twitter for approximately one half-decent baseball joke per week. Bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. By popular request I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music featured here. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.