Nuggets coach Malone in awe of 'selfless superstar' Jokic after 16-assist masterclass

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Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone described the qualities that make reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic so unique after his selfless performance on Monday.

The 27-year-old Serbian dished 16 assists while only attempting five field goals – hitting all five – for his 14 points and 11 rebounds as his Nuggets beat the LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers 122-109.

It improves his career-high assist average to 9.7 per game, which places him third in the league behind only Indiana Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton (10.3) and Atlanta Hawks All-Star Trae Young (9.8).

His field goal attempts are the lowest they have been since the 2019-20 season at 15.2 per game – leaving him outside of the top-50 – while being efficient enough to score 25.0 points per game, the 20th-best average.

Speaking to reporters after the win, Malone said it is rare to find a star player so unfazed by their shot attempts.

"I tell you man, we always talk about it, I've been around the league a long time," he said. "I know a lot of players that, if they took five shots in 35 minutes, would be p***** off right now, I'm being serious.

"Nikola doesn't care – whether he takes five [shots] or 25. There's not many guys like him that I've ever been around, and I've been around the game a long time myself, and with my father when he was an assistant coach and a head coach in the NBA.

"It just speaks to – another triple-double – but, a truly selfless superstar. Five shots, no complaints, no pouting, no bad body-language. Let's just play the game the right way, that's all he cares about."

When asked a question about Jokic's ability to throw pinpoint bullet passes, Malone expanded on the craft of the near seven-footer.

"He will throw a bullet if a bullet is needed to be thrown, he will also throw a lob pass when it needs to be thrown, or he will just feather a bounce-pass through traffic if it needs to be thrown," he said.

"That's the beautiful thing about it, he can read the situation, and make the appropriate pass at the right time."

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham echoed those sentiments, sharing admiration for his opponent.

"Man, his ability to play-make, bringing the ball up, out of the post, the mid-post, the nail," he said. "His touch on his passes, his touch on his shots. He's one of those once-in-a-generation type bigs who just does it all.

"So his impact is not based on – he can put up big numbers – but it's not solely based on his scoring output. The way he puts his fingerprints all over the game – that's a rarity.

"Especially at his size, it's only a few of those guys in the league that are able to do that."

With the win, the Nuggets are tied for the best record in the Western Conference at 27-13.