Over the course of his career, Denver Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic has earned a reputation as the best passing big man in the NBA, and on Monday night his skill set as an elite assist man was on full display. During the Nuggets’ 124-111 win over the shorthanded Houston Rockets, Jokic set a career high with 18 assists. In the process, he became the first center to record 18 assists in a game since Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. Not bad company for Jokic.
In addition to the astronomical assist amount that he compiled, Jokic also added 19 points and 12 rebounds — good for his 43rd career triple-double. When it came to his 18 assists on Monday night, Jokic got them in every way. He got some of them while playing out of the post, others came out of pick-and-roll action, and others still were off dribble hand-offs. On a couple of occasions, Jokic led fast breaks for the Nuggets like a pure point guard and finished the plays with pinpoint passes. He also sprinkled in some nice crosscourt and outlet passes, as he is known to do. It was nothing short of a passing clinic that Jokic put on.
You can see all 18 of Jokic’s assists against the Rockets below, via the NBA:
At this point, Jokic’s teammates have become accustomed to his otherworldly passing ability. But nonetheless, they were still understandably impressed with his performance.
“I see it every day. It’s just expected for him to pass like that,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said, via The Athletic. “Eighteen assists is a lot. It’s a lot. It’s incredible, what he can do. And he’s so calm about it. He just sits there in the post and if nothing’s open, just one-on-one, easy work. Baby food. It’s a pleasure to feed the ball to him, and I’m there ready to shoot. But when he’s doing that, they can’t stop it.”
When it was his turn to talk, Jokic downplayed his performance while also finding a way to credit his coaches.
“I just play like that, trying to find the open guy,” Jokic said. “My coaches gave me the freedom to do that.”
Jokic’s huge night helped propel the Nuggets to their first win of the season, after they had dropped their first two games to the Kings and Clippers, respectively. Moving forward, Denver will continue to need more performances like this from Jokic in order for them to remain a top-tier team in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. As good of a passer as he is, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Jokic have a 20-assist performance at some point.