Nikola Jokic’s NBA-leading 10th triple-double paces Nuggets over Cavs


The Nuggets had so much momentum Friday night, not even another crooked rim could derail them.

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Nuggets showed impressive resolve and resiliency in burying the visiting Cavaliers, 121-108. Nikola Jokic orchestrated his NBA-leading 10th triple-double of the season, finishing the night with 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.

“Nikola’s like a computer,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of Jokic’s ability to decipher an elite defense like Cleveland.

The only thing he didn’t do was fix the recurring rim problem, which cropped up early in the fourth quarter. But given arena workers’ familiarity with the problem, the delay didn’t last nearly as long as it did when the problem first arose against Boston several games ago.

“Don’t even get me started (on the ladders),” Malone said. “It’s not good for my blood pressure.”

Playing without Donovan Mitchell due to rest, the Cavs finished with six guys in double figures and 60 points in the paint. But Denver shot 17 of 35 from the 3-point line and buckled down defensively in the second half.

Now 26-13, the Nuggets have won nine of their last 11 games and will resume play on Monday when they welcome the Lakers to town.

Jamal Murray scored 18 points while playing in his first back-to-back of the season, and Michael Porter Jr. added 16. Bones Hyland and Bruce Brown spearheaded another strong bench effort to help combat Cleveland’s size.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the Nuggets notched their first double-digit lead in third quarter, the same quarter where they finally engaged defensively. There were strong contests and selfless plays that helped grease the offense. Of course, Jokic did that, too.

He knocked down three 3-pointers in the quarter alone, stretching Cleveland’s defense to untenable lengths. Murray came around a screen and buried one, too, and Bones Hyland knocked down two of his own. Denver’s scorching 3-point shooting helped pace a 32-point quarter. And if it wasn’t Denver’s perimeter shooting, then it was Aaron Gordon asserting himself inside. The complete quarter engineered a 94-82 Nuggets lead.

In the wake of Thursday’s rout over the Clippers, Malone had plenty of reason to be optimistic about his team’s standing nearly halfway through the season. But as Murray and Porter tried to regain their rhythm, and Denver’s defense worked to establish itself, Malone was convinced they weren’t close to a finished product.

“I really feel that we have another level that we can get to,” Malone said prior to the game.

Their success thus far, he said, was even more impressive considering the eight new players they added this offseason and that continuity, once a given, was no longer a constant.


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