Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Nikola Jokić keeps finding new ways to amaze me.
In today’s SI:AM:
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Maybe there isn’t a way to stop Jokić
After taking their foot off the gas at the end of Game 2, the Nuggets listened to coach Michael Malone’s complaints about their lack of effort and stomped the Heat with a convincing 109–94 victory in Game 3 to take a 2–1 series lead.
Much of the discussion after Game 2 centered on Nikola Jokić’s 41-point, four-assist night and whether forcing the two-time MVP to do it himself rather than spread the wealth to his teammates was the key to Miami’s making this a competitive series. But whatever worked for the Heat on defense in Game 2 went out the window last night as Jokić stuffed the stat sheet like no other player in NBA Finals history.
Jokic’s 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists gave him the first 30-20-10 game in the history of the NBA Finals. The only other players in playoff history with a 30-20-10 game are Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who each had one. Jokić now has three.
And it wasn’t just Jokić who killed the Heat last night. Jamal Murray had his own triple double (34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists), making him and Jokić the first pair of teammates to have 30-point triple doubles in any NBA game. The duo did everything right, Chris Mannix writes:
The two-man game between Denver’s Big Two was outstanding. Jokić, as he did in Game 1, orchestrated the offense brilliantly, slinging cross-court passes to Murray, flipping post passes to a cutting Christian Braun, slipping touch passes to Aaron Gordon. Murray was efficient (12-of-22) and never stopped facilitating, collecting 10 assists. A rebound in the closing seconds gave Murray his triple double, punctuating a statement game for the Nuggets’ top two players.
As if that wasn’t tough enough for the Heat, the Nuggets also got a heroic performance from an unlikely candidate. Rookie Christian Braun, whose playing time has been inconsistent in the playoffs, scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Braun’s big game off the bench highlighted another factor that separates the Nuggets from the Heat. Denver can count on its role players to contribute more consistently than Miami can. Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler have carried the Heat to this point, but they need help. In Game 2, that help came from Gabe Vincent, who had a team-high 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, and Duncan Robinson, whose 10-point fourth quarter was instrumental to Miami’s comeback. Adebayo and Butler didn’t have as much help last night, though. Vincent had seven points on 2-of-10 shooting. Max Strus went 1-for-7 and scored just three points. Caleb Martin (10 points on 4-of-9 shooting) was the only Heat player other than Adebayo and Butler to score in double figures.
The trend that has emerged from the first three games of the series is that everything needs to go right for the Heat for them to win. They won Game 2 thanks to the hot shooting that has carried them through the playoffs. But when the shots didn’t fall last night (they went 11-for-35 from three), they were in trouble. The Nuggets, meanwhile, can win in a variety of ways, whether or not their threes are falling. In fact, last night, Denver went 5-for-18 from three. No other team has won a playoff game while attempting 18 or fewer threes since the Spurs in 2019.
With last night’s win, the Nuggets reclaimed home court advantage. It’ll be up to the Heat to find a way to stifle Jokić and Murray again in Game 4 tomorrow night, otherwise the series will head back to Denver with the Nuggets poised to close it out.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- Jon Wertheim writes today’s Daily Cover story about Anna Leigh Waters, the teen dominating professional pickleball.
- Lionel Messi is set to come to MLS club Inter Miami in a move that “isn’t really about soccer,” Jonathan Wilson writes.
- PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will have to continue to answer for his missteps that led to a merger with LIV Golf, Alex Miceli writes.
- Rory McIlroy spoke yesterday about the PGA Tour’s unlikely deal in a press conference that included some interesting quotes.
- The Commanders are in an interesting spot in 2023, with new ownership and a strong roster but major uncertainty at quarterback, Matt Verderame writes. And in his mailbag, Albert Breer addresses Washington’s outlook and explains why the franchise can’t afford to tank.
- The Lions have garnered hype throughout the offseason, but their success could come down to the play of Jared Goff. Conor Orr sets the record straight on the still-improving QB.
- MLB could try harder to keep the A’s in the Bay. But Stephanie Apstein writes that the league seems more keen on helping them get out of town. Kirk O’Neil of TheStreet reports this week that the A’s ballpark deal in Las Vegas is in limbo. To get more from TheStreet, including market news, stock updates and investing tips, sign up for its free daily newsletter.
- The Stanley Cup Final has been one-sided so far, as the Golden Knights are up 2–0. The Panthers, however, will look to notch a win in front of a home crowd Thursday, with the average ticket price for Game 3 just under $1,000.
The top five...
… things I saw last night:
5. Bam Adebayo’s putback dunk (and Mike Breen’s “Bam slam” call).
4. Myles Straw’s catch against the wall to seal the Guardians’ win over the Red Sox.
3. Elly De La Cruz’s blistering speed on a triple. He went from home to third in 10.83 seconds, the fastest of any player in the majors this season.
2. Kaley Mudge’s home run robbery for Florida State in the Women’s College World Series.
1. Will Benson’s animated reaction to his walk-off homer for the Reds.
On this day in 1989, the Pirates took a 10–0 lead in the first inning against the Phillies in Philadelphia, prompting Pittsburgh announcer Jim Rooker to declare he’d perform what outlandish stunt if the Pirates lost?
- Eat his hat
- Walk home to Pittsburgh
- Swim in Pittsburgh’s three rivers
- Jump out of a plane
Yesterday’s SIQ: Who is the oldest player in MLB history to pick up an extra-base hit?
- Jamie Moyer
- Julio Franco
- Matt Stairs
- Jack Quinn
Answer: Jack Quinn. In the bottom of the eighth inning of a game against the Cubs on June 7, 1932, Quinn hit a bases-clearing double that extended the Dodgers’ lead to 9–2. He was 48 years, 342 days old. And get this: Quinn was a pitcher who was a career .184 hitter.
Quinn, who was cagey about his age but is understood to have been born in July 1883, remains the oldest player in MLB history to leg out an extra-base hit. For 80 years, he was the oldest player to pick up a hit of any kind. On Sept. 17, 1932, after his 49th birthday, he picked up a single in the second game of a doubleheader. He was later surpassed, though, by Jamie Moyer, who had two hits as a 49-year-old in 2012 with the Rockies.
The oldest player to hit a home run was Julio Franco, who was 48 years, 254 days old when he homered for the Mets against the Diamondbacks on May 4, 2007. The oldest player with a triple is a more interesting story. That distinction belongs to Nick Altrock of the Washington Senators, who was 48 years, 15 days old when he tripled against the Red Sox on Sept. 30, 1924.
Altrock was a member of the Senators’ organization from 1912 to ’57, when he finally stepped away at age 81. He made occasional appearances as a player during his tenure, including on the final day of the ’33 season, when he appeared as a pinch hitter at age 57.
Altrock was, at the time, the oldest player to appear in an MLB game. He was surpassed the following year by Charlie O’Leary, who came out of a two-decade retirement 15 days shy of his 59th birthday to suit up for one game with the St. Louis Browns. (O’Leary, like Altrock, was on the coaching staff and made his appearance in the final game of the season.) O’Leary was later bested by Satchel Paige, who was 59 years, 80 days old when he pitched three innings for the Kansas City A’s in 1965.