Sports

Nikola Jokic’s 15th triple-double saves Nuggets from collapse vs. Pelicans


🔊 Nuggets Podcast: Aaron Gordon on playing with Nikola Jokic, developing his game and playing for a championship

  • NEW ORLEANS – Nikola Jokic threw passes as wild as a night out on Bourbon Street.

    More often than not, they worked.

    In the end, the Nuggets survived a frantic, last-ditch effort from the Pelicans on Tuesday night, seizing a 99-98 win. What was once a 19-point lead dwindled under the incessant energy of Jose Alvarado, and C.J. McCollum missed a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer that would’ve won it.

    Instead, the Nuggets hung on as both Jokic and head coach Michael Malone returned to action. Jokic, who finished with a 25-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double, buried a short floater in the lane with 16 seconds left to give Denver the lead.

    Jamal Murray poured in 25 points of his own, to go along with seven assists. The Nuggets improved to 34-14 on the season, with a grueling back-to-back in Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

    The Nuggets were without Michael Porter Jr. (personal reasons) and Bones Hyland (sprained finger) yet managed to overcome both absences. It helped, of course, that New Orleans was out Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

    The Nuggets went to their bread-and-butter to start the second half. While Murray and Jokic engineered their two-man game, Aaron Gordon lingered as a threat. Jokic softened up the Pelicans’ defense with an early over-the-top lob to Gordon. The All-Star candidate then swatted another look on defense. Once the Pelicans had whittled the lead to single digits, Denver went to its most dangerous weapon: Jokic inside. He calmed the waters with a quick bucket down low before the reserves restored some order, helping to forge an 83-74 lead going into the fourth.

    Denver Nuggets forward Bruce Brown (11) blocks the shot of New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

    After spending the last four games observing (and yelling) from his basement, Malone couldn’t wait to return to work. He said getting on the plane to New Orleans was akin to Christmas morning. When players and staffers were hesitant to engage him after clearing COVID, he was insistent.

    “I’ve been cleared, man!” he joked prior to Tuesday’s game.

    From afar, Malone watched his team go 3-1, marveled at Jokic’s special dominance and cheered as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played staunch defense. When Murray missed the potential game-tying shot vs. Oklahoma City, Malone called him afterwards.

    “I wanted to hug him,” Malone said.

    Cleared from his “spartan-type living” quarters, Malone returned to find a team that had barely skipped a beat.

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    Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

          

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