May 22, 2024

In an unusual turn of events, Nikola Jokic will be absent from a crucial game for the Denver Nuggets as they conclude what their head coach, Michael Malone, deems a pivotal stretch of 10 games on Wednesday. The team has posted a commendable 7-2 record during this period, facing challenging matchups such as a five-game road trip along the East Coast and squaring off against several playoff-caliber teams. Despite reaching the conclusion of this demanding stretch, the Nuggets will be without their star player.

Nikola Jokic will be sidelined on Wednesday due to persistent lower back pain, a lingering issue he has intermittently grappled with for the past few months. Additionally, Jokic suffered an eye scratch late last week, resulting in one of his pupils swelling and his face becoming visibly swollen.

Having recently successfully defended home court against formidable opponents like the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, Jokic was prepared to face the last two MVPs in Wednesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, the matchup against the Thunder is considered even more significant given the Nuggets’ current standing at 33-15, placing them second in the Western Conference, just a half-game behind Minnesota for the top spot. The T-Wolves retained their lead by defeating the Thunder on Monday with a record of 33-14, putting OKC a half-game behind the Nuggets at 32-15. The Clippers are also in the mix, creating a four-team competition for the conference’s top spot. This Wednesday game is crucial as it marks Denver’s final regular-season encounter with the Thunder, with the Nuggets currently trailing 1-2 in their head-to-head matchups.

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Jokic, a front-runner for the MVP at -110, leads the league in win shares at 10 and ranks fourth in total points this season. With impressive statistics averaging 26.3 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 9.0 assists per game, he is on par with his MVP-caliber performances from previous years. The Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the closest contender at +250.

The absence of Jokic not only takes away the anticipated MVP showdown but also denies both teams a final opportunity to assess a potential playoff opponent. Perhaps Coach Malone’s decision is a strategic move, adding a layer of complexity to the situation, which wouldn’t be unprecedented.

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