Jokic’s triple-double leads Nuggets past Suns 119-91
DENVER — Nikola Jokic scored 35 points, posted a triple-double and didn’t miss a field goal in leading the Denver Nuggets past the Phoenix Suns 119-91 Saturday night.
Jokic, who had 10 assists and 10 rebounds, joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to post a triple-double with 30 or more points without missing a field goal.
Chamberlain did it twice, in 1966 and ‘67.
Jokic made all 11 of his shots from the floor and missed just one of 11 free throws on a night the crowd serenaded him with chants of “MVP! MVP!”
Jamal Murray added 26 points for the Nuggets, who are off to their first 2-0 start since 2011-12 and will go for their first 3-0 start since 2009-10 when they host the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Sunday night.
They’ll be without starting forward Will Barton, who injured his right hip on a reverse layup in the third quarter and was wheeled off the court in obvious distress.
Devin Booker’s 25 points led the Suns.
Barton’s injury took some air out of the Pepsi Center, where Jokic stretched Denver’s 65-49 halftime lead to 81-59 on a dunk, which was followed by a 3-pointer from Murray for a 25-point lead midway through the third quarter.
The intriguing matchup between Jokic and top overall draft pick Deandre Ayton down low never really materialized. Ayton, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in his debut against Dallas, scored 5 points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov knew it was going to be a learning experience as his prized rookie worked against Jokic.
“He makes everybody else better. He’s a tricky player. He’s going to try to sell a lot of tricks to Deandre,” Kokoskov said before tipoff. “Deandre has to play smart. He has to play to his strengths, his energy and high motor. He also has to match all of his tricks.”
He didn’t come close, and neither did the Suns.
Suns: Phoenix was without G Troy Daniels, who sustained a concussion at practice. “It was a contact practice, guys were scrimmaging and it happened right in front of me,” Kokoskov said. “It didn’t look that hard but he didn’t pass the test. He’s in concussion protocol and he’s expected to come back in a few days.”
Nuggets: Denver was 31-10 at home last season, fourth-best in the NBA. … Murray tried to get too fancy on a steal and layup and was stripped when he tried to go behind his back before scoring. … The Nuggets’ second string kept letting the Suns back in the game as Phoenix’s big runs came when Denver’s starters were getting breathers on the bench. The Nuggets were outscored 13-2 at the end of the third quarter and saw their lead go from 25 to 13.
Suns: visit Golden State Warriors on Monday night.
Nuggets: host Golden State Warriors on Sunday night.
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The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.