TORONTO – After another impressive victory on Monday, the Denver Nuggets defeated the Toronto Raptors 106-103 to extend their winning streak to six Games, Nuggets Watchman Jamal Murray was asked about the latest sensational performance from the Denver Star Center, Nikola Jokic.
Before Murray could answer the question, the music went from a nearby corner of the locker room to the reporters around him. Murray smiled and nodded in his direction.
There was Jokic, fresh from a 23-point, 1
Murray could only laugh.
"Look at this," he said, shaking his head. "I deal with this every day."
The congestion of the Western Conference – with 14 teams separated by five games – is getting stranger by the day, while Blake Griffin & Co. are making noise in the East.
The Denver Nuggets are not playing because they have been the best non-playoff Western Conference team in the last two years.
Jokic – both on and off the field – is full of surprises. This spontaneity has helped ignite the Nuggets to a 16-7 record after Monday's thrilling victory. This record ties them to the LA Clippers for first place in the thoroughly unpredictable Western Conference.
Seeing Jokic means seeing someone truly unique on a basketball court. This word is thrown around too often, but in this case it fits: a 6-foot-10 center that passes by in Serbia with the ease of a 6-foot point keeper and with a flair that fits into every city game in America cultivated several thousand miles away.
Jokic flaunted all these tricks on Monday. He picked up four of Denver's 15 offensive rebounds and helped the Nuggets achieve their decisive 23-2 lead in seconds. He had 15 out of 40 assistants in Denver and threw a selection of ridiculous passes to give his teammates a wide view throughout the match. Jokic, who credibly claims to be one of the greatest passers-by of all time, is the only center of the last 30 years to have 15 assistants in a single game.
He has done that three times now.  While Jokic is sometimes reluctant to shoot, he led Denver with 23 points, including three free throws in a row in the last seven seconds of the game, after being held by Serge Ibaka before the ball hit the ball. This resulted in a dead ball foul and a free throw, and Jokic sank both deliberate free throws after catching the following inbounds pass.
The result was that Denver missed its last impressive win and continued to show the league's why the Nuggets, having barely missed the playoffs of the last two seasons, could be a team "I do not know," Jokic said when asked why he had done so well against Toronto.
"The boys made punches, I passed the ball, we played well, we had really good energy on the bench … Everyone who played has done something good in the game, it's a bit of everything."
It would have been easy for Jokic to take the lion's share of the credit after his performance. But so the 23-year-old is not wired, which affects the mindset of his teammates.
Although the Nuggets are one of the NBA's main offenses (Denver is ninth after Monday's action), the Nuggets do not run many complicated sets. Instead, they rely on Jokic's ingenuity and creativity and use a team of smart, intoxicating players to maximize these gifts.
Nikola Jokic throws a cross-court, no-look pass to Jamal Murray, who empties a 3rd.
"He does everything," said Murray, who had 21 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in 41 minutes. "He fits, bounces, kicks the ball, there's nothing he can not do but jump."
The result is a wildly entertaining team that appears to be on a mission to dispel doubts about its chances of off-season this time. Armed with this six-game winning streak, scored in nine of the first 10 games after the victories, Denver wins a victory over the who-is-who of the opponents.
These include the Raptors, which brings the team the NBA's best record, the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, the Boston Celtics, the New Orleans Pelicans, the Utah Jazz, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers.
That almost made Denver completely absent Will Barton – the team's little striker who missed all but the first two games of the season with a groin injury – testifies to the depth of the presidential front office from basketball operations has built Tim Connelly. Juan Hernangomez has more than qualified and played well enough for Barton as a starting little striker, so Nuggets coach Michael Malone will find time when Barton returns. Monte Morris, a second round a year ago, was a revelation as a backup point guard of the team.
The Nuggets hope guard Gary Harris, who receives an MRI, can expect good news from the injury front On Tuesday in Orlando, after leaving the match on Monday with a groin injury in the first quarter, Malik Beasley scored in 26 Minutes 15 points from the bench, including a huge 3-pointer to advance Denver in the final minutes.  It's a mix where the Nuggets fly high – and hope that with a core group of players in Harris (24 years), Jokic (23) and Murray (21) this should be good for years only the beginning of a long series of successes in the Mile High City.
"Tonight, understaffed to take the victory … having enough balance speaks volumes for a young team that grows up and matures at big moments, and it's great to see," Malone said. "I'm so proud of our boys for that.
" That's a hell of a win for us. That's a great team there. But we are not satisfied. We have three more games on this trip. It's a business trip and we'll keep trying to make more profits to see what we can do.
Do not expect Jokic to treat it as something other than it is: a chance for him to have fun and play his own way, both on and off the field.
So far, the Nuggets have well served, do not rely on her or Jokic changing course.