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Three Things to Know: Blocked shot to beat Warriors adds to Jokic MVP case

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 26: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets brings the ball up court during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Arena on December 26, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Jokic making serious MVP case, blocked shot to beat Warriors adds to it

Nikola Jokic is playing better than his MVP season.

You can see it when you watch the Nuggets play — he is in control of everything right now, being the kind of floor general we usually associate with great point guards. He is the hub of the Nuggets’ offense and he will not be rushed into a decision, which you can see in his passing. Of late, he is tearing up the league.

His defense also has improved, something the Warriors learned the hard way Tuesday when Jokic got back in transition and blocked a driving Jonathan Kuminga shot attempt to preserve the Nuggets win over the Warriors.

Add it to Jokic’s MVP case — which is a strong one.

Jokic is averaging 25.8 points a game, a career-high 14 rebounds a night, plus is dishing out 7.1 assists a game — and he is doing it all efficiently. His 63.2 true shooting percentage is the highest of any of the top 10 scorers in the league. His advanced stats (VORP, Win Shares, estimated +/-, whatever you want to use) are in line with or better last season when he won MVP. Jokic’s PER of 32.3 this season would set an all-time record, besting anything Jordan or Chamberlain posted. Plus, his twerking is unparalleled in the league.

The best stat for Jokic’s case: The Nuggets outscore opponents by 9.7 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 13.9 when he sits — the Nuggets are +23.6 when he plays. That is the definition of value.

The argument against Jokic: The Nuggets are 17-16. Basically a .500 team. Players who take home the award tend to come from the top three teams in their conference.

A recent straw poll by ESPN found Stephen Curry a clear frontrunner for the MVP award. When we at NBC pick our mid-season awards in a few weeks, I might have Curry on top of my MVP list. For my money, four players have separated themselves from the pack in this race: Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Jokic. You can make a strong case right now for any of those four.

A Jokic repeat as MVP is on the table — he has played well enough to be in the conversation.

And he is even winning some games with his defense.

2) Stephen Curry, we love you 3,000

When Stephen Curry passed Ray Allen last week to become the NBA’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers, the question was where would he set the bar for the next generation. Because Curry wasn’t done.

At the end of the third quarter against the Nuggets Tuesday, Curry became the first player in NBA history with 3,000 made threes.

Curry wasn’t done, of course.

Never say never, someday a player will take aim at Curry’s records from 3 — he has inspired a generation of shooters. But the targets he will leave behind are ridiculous.

3) LeBron, Westbrook both with triple-doubles for Lakers in win

The Lakers will take their wins wherever they can get them right now, no questions asked.

So if it takes both LeBron James starting at center, and both he and Russell Westbrook having triple-doubles on the road to beat a rebuilding Rockets team, then that’s what it takes.

James finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Westbrook had 24 points with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his seventh of the season.

The Lakers got the 132-123 win to snap a five-game losing streak.

Highlight of the Night: Antetokounmpo moves his defender “like a matchstick”

Freddie Gillespie is in Orlando on a 10-day hardship contract, and he got his chance to prove himself guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo. That didn’t end well for him.

Last night’s scores:

Milwaukee 127, Orlando 110
Miami 119, Washington 112
Philadelphia 114, Toronto 109
LA Lakers 132, Houston 123
New York 96, Minnesota 88
New Orleans 108, Cleveland 104
Denver 89, Golden State 86
Sacramento 117, Oklahoma City 111