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Porter and Jokic turn in big nights, lead Nuggets to 113-100 win over Knicks

DENVER (AP) — Michael Porter Jr. has the green light to not only shoot but visit Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, whenever he wants. His coach will even pick up the tab.

Porter has been on an offensive roll since his quick trip to Mexico for a little rest and relaxation over the All-Star break.

The versatile Denver forward had another sensational shooting night on his way to 31 points, Nikola Jokic notched his 22nd triple-double of the season and the Nuggets held off the New York Knicks for a 113-100 win Thursday night.

Porter was 13 of 16 from the field — including a pass to himself off the glass for a dunk — and 2 of 2 from the free-throw line. Porter also had three 3-pointers to give him 193 for the season and break Dale Ellis’ single-season team mark of 192 set in 1996-97.

“I told him just now, ‘Go to Cabo whenever you want. I’ll pay for it,’” Nuggets coach Michael Malone cracked.

The time in the sun was fun, but Porter said the reason for his scoring wasn't so much the trip as tweaks he's incorporated into his game.

“But Cabo was a great break," said Porter, who attributed breaking the team's 3-point mark to being healthy and playing in a career-high 69 games this season. “I needed it for sure.”

Jokic finished with 30 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists as the reigning champion Nuggets improved to 13-2 since the All-Star break and climbed within percentage points of first place in the Western Conference.

“We’re playing at a high level,” Malone said. “The challenge is with 12 (games) to go can we continue to keep this up and stay healthy while doing so? Our players deserve so much credit for their mindset and approach every single night.”

Jamal Murray added 23 points before limping off the floor with just under a minute remaining after hurting his ankle. The Nuggets were highly focused for this game following a 38-point loss to the Knicks on Jan 25 at Madison Square Garden, Denver's most lopsided loss of the season.

Denver led by 12 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Knicks trimmed it to 90-88 with 8:19 remaining. The Nuggets quickly inserted the starters and put the brakes on the comeback bid.

Jalen Brunson scored 26 points and Isaiah Hartenstein had 20 for the Knicks, whose four-game winning streak came to a halt. New York's reserves outscored Denver's bench by a 30-13 margin.

“They just made a couple more plays than us tonight,” said Brunson, whose team finished 3-1 on their trip out West. “I thought we played hard. We just didn’t get the job done.”

Donte DiVincenzo knocked down three 3-pointers to give him 219, which is the second-most for a season in Knicks history. Evan Fournier set the team record with 241 in 2021-22.

Jokic nearly had a triple-double by halftime with 16 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Before the game, Knicks coach Coach Tom Thibodeau heaped praise on the two-time NBA MVP. Thibodeau, along with the rest of the league, is trying to figure out whether it's best to take away Jokic's jumper or his court vision.

No one has an answer.

Jokic had a shot in the fourth quarter hit off the top of the backboard and go in. He also winged a pass over his shoulder to the corner that set up Porter for 3-pointer in the third quarter.

“He’s an MVP for a reason,” Brunson said.

The banged-up Knicks continue to be without OG Anunoby (right elbow), Julius Randle (right shoulder) and Mitchell Robinson (left ankle). Thibodeau said before the game that Anunoby remains day-to-day. Asked if he was concerned the clock was starting to run out to get Randle healthy, Thibodeau responded: “Control what you can control. ... Just keep working at it. You never know when it turns. That’s the way we have to approach it.”

UP NEXT

Knicks: Host Brooklyn on Saturday night.

Nuggets: At Portland on Saturday night.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba