Nikola Jokić triple-double powers Denver Nuggets to 120-108 win over Portland Trail Blazers

Two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić led the way for the Denver Nuggets in their 120-108 victory over the lowly Portland Trail Blazers to bring the defending champions within half a game of the No. 1 seed in the West.

Jokić racked up his league-leading 15th triple-double of the season – scoring 27 points to go along with a monster 22 rebounds and 12 assists – in the effort, leaving Nuggets head coach Michael Malone to laud his superstar after the game.

“What Nikola’s done is historical in nature. It’s amazing, that’s why he’s a two-time MVP,” Malone told reporters. “He’s a world champion and he’s a Finals MVP because, every night, just his ability to be great for himself, but more importantly, his ability to make everyone around him better – and that truly is the definition of greatness.

“And we have been spoiled. I’m sure some of us do find ourselves maybe taking it for granted, but just remind yourself that there’s not many guys like Nikola Jokić that walk through those doors and appreciate every opportunity that you have to watch him play.”

The fans in Ball Arena certainly don’t take the Serbian big man for granted – he’s led the team to six straight winning seasons, won two regular season MVP awards (2020/21 and 2021/22) and, last year, led the franchise to its first ever NBA title since joining the team in 2015 – and they him know it last night with boisterous support throughout the contest against the Blazers.

Denver ran out to a big early lead, outscoring Portland 33 to 20 in the first quarter, but the Trail Blazers fought back in the second.

After trailing by 11 with 8:32 left in the half, the Blazers went on a 16-3 run in just over three minutes – capped off by a jumper from Scoot Henderson, who finished with a game-high 30 points off the bench – to take a two-point lead. The two teams then traded the lead until the Nuggets pulled ahead by four at the half.

Though Denver’s lead ballooned to as much as 13 with roughly five minutes to play in the third, it could never really shake Portland, which closed the gap to five several times in the fourth. Eventually though, the defending champs’ balanced attack – seven Nuggets players finished in double figures – proved to be too much for the visitors as they fell to the road loss.

Jokić said afterwards he was pleased that the Nuggets are still hungry for more success this season. - David Zalubowski/AP
Jokić said afterwards he was pleased that the Nuggets are still hungry for more success this season. - David Zalubowski/AP

The win takes Denver to 34-16 on the year, half a game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 1 spot in the West.

Coincidentally, the Nuggets have the same record as they did last year after 50 games, leading Jokić to tell reporters that he’s impressed the team isn’t resting on its laurels and still has the hunger to keep pushing for bigger and better things.

“I like that we are still playing with the same effort like that. It’s not like won a championship and now we’re gonna go easy,” Jokić said postgame. “We still want to compete and we still want to be better. Where we’re at the best, I don’t really know, but maybe in that: just willing to still fight and still don’t give up and still fighting for games.”

The loss ends Portland’s two-game winning streak – against two of the NBA’s top teams, the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks – but the Blazers will get their chance at revenge soon as they once again play the Nuggets in Denver on Sunday night.

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