'Incredibly proud' Malone backs Jokic MVP claims after Nuggets elimination

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Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone says Nikola Jokic deserves to win the Most Valuable Player award this season, despite the team's playoff elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

The Nuggets' season ended following a 102-98 loss at Chase Center on Wednesday, handing the Warriors a 4-1 series victory.

Without the injured Jamal Murray, Jokic has had to take on a much heavier burden, and he finished Wednesday with 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting, 19 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks.

After the loss, Malone stood up for his All-Star big man and stated his case to retain the MVP award.

"Going into the game, his hamstring was a little tight," Malone said. "I'm sure he was fatigued mentally, physically and emotionally, but he fights through it.

"That guy is a warrior. I just don't understand the people that find a way to criticise Nikola Jokic. Is he perfect? No, I'm not saying he is.

"But the guy is the definition of a warrior. He's competitive, consistent, and he impacts the game in so many ways. Hell of a season, and hopefully he'll win the MVP again, because I think rightfully he deserves it."

It was always going to be a tough series against a Warriors side finding form heading into the playoffs, but the undermanned Nuggets managed to make it difficult.

Extending their season and taking out Game 4 when faced with a sweep, Malone's side held an eight-point lead after the third quarter in Wednesday night's game, but the Warriors simply found another gear.

How the Nuggets stayed competitive with the odds stacked against them provided some kind of solace for the 50-year-old coach.

"Incredibly proud, I really am," Malone said. "When you lose a series 4-1, it's hard to find that silver lining. We didn't win and that's what we came here for.

"As a head coach, I couldn't be more proud of a group that could have rolled over after the third game, fought at home to extend the series and put ourselves in a great position.

"No one gave us a chance to win the series, and there were a lot of people saying tonight was going to be a rout, that we were going to get blown out. That's not who we are."

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