Another night, another history-making achievement for Nikola Jokic. Early in the third quarter of a 122-118 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night, the reigning back-to-back MVP passed Alex English to set the Denver Nuggets' franchise record for assists with 3,680. Jokic is only center to ever lead a franchise in all-time assists, and his career total at the end of the night was 3,686.
Jokic finished the game with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists on 12-of-20 shooting, despite being limited to just 31 minutes due to foul trouble. He was on the floor when it mattered most, though, and was influential as the Nuggets turned around a seven-point fourth quarter deficit. This was the second consecutive 30-point triple-double for Jokic, who now has 90 career triple-doubles. As for the Nuggets, they improved to 32-13 with their eighth consecutive win overall and 15th consecutive home win.
Getting back to Jokic's assist record, he set the mark in the most fitting way possible by thinking one step ahead of the defense. After Kyle Anderson was called for a travel, the Nuggets took over possession and were set to inbound the ball on the sideline. Jokic, realizing the Wolves weren't hustling back on defense, rushed over to the ref to speed up that process. By doing so, he caught the Wolves napping and got Kentavious Caldwell-Pope an uncontested dunk on the other end of the floor.
Nikola Jokic has officially passed Alex English for the most assists in Nuggets franchise history 🙌👏 pic.twitter.com/Q4xMQagp6l— NBA (@NBA) January 19, 2023
Jokic is a brilliant passer thanks to his rare combination of vision, touch and creativity. It takes a high level of skill to put long-range outlets on the money from 60-70 feet, or to fling one-hand whip passes across the court with enough velocity that they get through the defense but aren't moving too fast for his shooters to catch cleanly.
But his success as a facilitator is also based in large part on plays like the record-setting feet to Caldwell-Pope. That was a simple pass, but only because Jokic had a complete and total understanding of not only what was happening, but what was going to happen. He earned his team a free two points simply by being smarter and more aware than anyone else.