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Mike Malone: Nikola Jokic NBA's Best Facilitator After 1st-Half Triple-Double

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2018

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone didn't hold back when assessing big man Nikola Jokic following Thursday's 134-123 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.  

"It's kind of like when I was fortunate enough to coach a guy like LeBron, Chris Paul, Steph Curry—you recognize greatness," Malone said, per Harrison Wind of BSN Denver. "We feel that we have the most dynamic, best facilitator, best young playmaker in the NBA."

Jokic, 22, finished with 30 points, 17 assists, 15 rebounds, two blocks and a steal as the Nuggets ran much of their offense through him. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he tallied the fastest triple-double in the league in 20 years by reaching the mark with 1:54 remaining until halftime:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Nikola Jokic reached a triple-double with 1:54 left in the second quarter. That's the fastest triple-double in the NBA in the past 20 seasons. https://t.co/kCy9a03ZGn

It was a head-turning statement by Malone to call Jokic the best young playmaker in the league, especially when 23-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo was on the same floor racking up his own triple-double with 36 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds before he heads to the All-Star Game as a starter.

Still, there was no denying Jokic's brilliance Thursday.

Not only did he finish with the impressive totals, but he also proved how much of a matchup nightmare he is by drilling all three of his three-point attempts and 11 of his 14 shots from the field. That forced the Bucks to honor his touch on the perimeter and shift additional attention his way, in turn freeing the lane for some of Jokic's assists and facilitating.

Entering play Thursday, Jokic was averaging 16.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, and this contest marked his third in February with double-digit assists.

He unleashes passes that would make point guards jealous despite checking in at 6'10", which makes it difficult for opposing defenses to double him on the blocks or near the elbows.

Thanks largely to his dominance, the Nuggets have the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference as they attempt to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season. The combination of Jokic, Gary Harris (28 points against the Bucks) and Jamal Murray (26 points against the Bucks) would make Denver a difficult matchup for any opponent if it reaches the postseason.

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