Jokic’s 41 lead Nuggets over Nets
DENVER — Nikola Jokic checked back into the game with 5:57 left, the Denver Nuggets leading by 17 and teammate Kenneth Faried yelling, “50!” from the bench.
The young center didn’t reach that lofty point total, but he did have a night to remember.
Jokic scored a career-high 41 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Paul Millsap had 17 points, and the Nuggets beat the Brooklyn Nets 112-104 on Tuesday night.
Will Barton scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds for Denver (6-5) but the night belonged to Jokic.
“He went out there and put on a show,” Barton said. “When a guy’s rolling like that you want to see him keep it going and get as many points as possible.”
Tyler Zeller led the Nets with a season-high 21 points off the bench, Caris LeVert had 13 points and D’Angelo Russell scored 12. Brooklyn (4-7) lost for the fifth time in six games.
Turnovers hurt the Nets. They had a season-high 25, which led to 27 points for Denver.
“There is no excuse, just got to be better,” Russell said. “I think it was really on us. It’s been real nonchalant starting with me. Being careless with the ball, there is just no value in it. It came from everywhere; mis-dribbles, forcing the issue, it was a little bit of everything. It’s easy to use (fatigue) as an excuse but as team we have to be better.”
Jokic, who took only three shots and didn’t score in a win over the Sacramento Kings in the home opener Oct. 21, was aggressive throughout. He was 16 of 25 from the field in 31 minutes and had two blocks and two steals.
“I didn’t feel it that time but I felt it tonight,” Jokic said of the Kings game.
He is averaging 20.8 points over the last six games, and Denver is 4-2 in that stretch.
“I’m going to stop saying he’s a helluva young player because I don’t care how old he is, Nikola Jokic is one of the better players in the NBA,” Denver coach Michael Malone said of his 21-year-old center.
Jokic was the offensive catalyst when Denver pulled away from the Nets. He scored 10 of his 21 first-half points in the final 2:56 of the second quarter to lead a run and help the Nuggets build a 57-46 advantage at intermission.
He scored 14 points in the third quarter when Denver went up by as many as 25. He outscored Brooklyn’s starters 41-40.
“(Jokic) is tough, he made a lot of shots, he got very comfortable in the beginning and then he made some very difficult ones,” Zeller said. “But that’s who he is; he’s a great player and you have to give him a lot of credit.”
Jokic went to the bench with 37 points after picking up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter but returned to score four more points to eclipse his career high of 40 set Feb. 10 at New York.
It took longer than expected to get those final four points because he was trying to pass.
“That shows the kind of guy he is and the type of basketball player he is,” Millsap said. “When you’re doing that you keep shooting. You don’t pass.”
He fouled out soon after and headed to the bench to a rousing ovation and an MVP! chant from the sparse home crowd.
“That’s funny,” Jokic said. “(Russell Westbrook) was the MVP. I had one good night.”
Brooklyn, which beat the Suns in Phoenix on Monday, led early behind Russell before Denver went up by 11 late in the first quarter. The Nets used a 9-0 run to get back in the game in the second quarter, but Denver responded with 11 consecutive points.
NOTES: Before the national anthem was performed, there was a moment of silence for the victims of the Texas church shooting. ... The Nets were forced into the visiting hockey locker room because the normal basketball locker room used by visiting teams was flooded when a sprinkler head was knocked off following a Jay-Z concert Sunday. ... Nuggets G Gary Harris finished with nine points, six steals and five assists. ... Brooklyn F Trevor Booker (sore lower back) and F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (right hip contusion) did not play. Booker has missed three games, while Hollis-Jefferson was injured Monday in a win at Phoenix. Both players are considered day-to-day.