Part stubborn, part savvy, Nikola Jokic had no intention of missing Friday night’s national showcase against the Dallas Mavericks.
Three nights after knocking knees with Utah’s Rudy Gobert, Jokic spearheaded Denver’s 106-75 win over the Mavericks to snap the Nuggets’ two-game losing streak. Now 3-2 on the season, the Nuggets will begin a three-game road trip Saturday at Minnesota.
“It’s the fifth time in franchise history that we’ve held an opponent under 30% from the field,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “You don’t see that very often.”
Jokic, who didn’t practice Thursday, received treatment on his right knee the last two days and felt comfortable enough to play. He went through his typical pre-game shooting routine sporting a sleeve to protect his knee. If it wasn’t for that extra apparel, there would’ve been no sign that his status was ever in question.
As the Nuggets poured it on in the second half, Jokic sat for the fourth quarter. He finished the night with 11 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists – two dimes shy of his first triple-double of the season.
Numerous Nuggets picked up the scoring production in his stead. Will Barton poured in 17, Aaron Gordon had 13 and Michael Porter Jr. scored 12. Barton, whose playmaking has made a noticeable leap, also added six assists and five rebounds. The Nuggets blasted the Mavs 50-22 on points in the paint and commanded the glass, 51-36.
With the game firmly in hand, fans got their favorite treat on Halloween weekend: appearances from both Bones Hyland and Bol Bol.
Sloppy and lethargic, the Mavs played like they were on the second night of a back-to-back, which they were. Luka Doncic was uncharacteristically out of rhythm, finishing just 5 of 18 from the field. Dallas shot just 29.5% from the field, with only two players in double figures.
The Nuggets steamrolled through the third quarter, outscoring Dallas 33-12. With Barton initiating, both he and Gordon buried their 3-pointers to extend the lead. Monte Morris cut through Dallas’ defense with several smooth finishes in the mid-range, and the Nuggets entered the fourth quarter up 87-56 with the game all-but over.
Despite Jokic’s questionable status heading into Friday night, Mavs coach Jason Kidd said his team was always approaching it as if the MVP would be available. Before the game, Kidd gushed over Jokic’s rare talent.
“It just shows, again, you can talk about, if the country didn’t break up into seven countries, they could be the Dream Team,” Kidd said, referring to Yugoslavia, which once contained Jokic’s native Serbia. “… As a fan of the game, it’s fun to watch. You cheer for him because you know you’re going to see something special.”
Asked whether Jokic gets enough credit for his durability, Nuggets coach Michael Malone took the opportunity to make a larger point.
“I don’t think a lot of what Nikola does gets enough credit,” Malone said. “Obviously, I feel like I’m his defense attorney at times because it’s just the facts.”
Malone could’ve been representing Doncic, too.
“You know he can score the ball,” Malone said. “I think he averaged 30 points per game against us last year. His ability to make plays and make all of his teammates better, he averaged 13 assists a game against us last year. … You can hear a common theme – we did not do a good job of guarding him last year. And he’s not afraid of the moment.”
Between Gordon and P.J. Dozier, the Nuggets bottled up Dallas’ generational star in the first half. Doncic managed 11 points but on 4 of 12 from the field. As a team, Denver limited Dallas to just 33% shooting.
If it wasn’t for 11 turnovers over the first two quarters, the Nuggets would’ve had a commanding lead at halftime. Instead, it was just 54-44 at the break. Six different Nuggets scored at least six points, led by nine from Porter.
Though his scoring wasn’t an early factor, Jokic snatched 12 rebounds and dished seven first-half assists. His knee was a non-issue.
(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)