DENVER — Nikola Jokic scored 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists for his 25th triple-double of the season as the Denver Nuggets beat the Memphis Grizzlies 113-97 Friday night in a showdown between the two best teams in the Western Conference.
Denver won the season series 2-1 and lead six games – five in the loss column – over Memphis for the top seed in the Western Conference. Sacramento returns seven games.
Michael Porter Jr. scored 26 points and Jamal Murray scored half of his 22 points in the fourth quarter for the Nuggets who were 25-0 this season when Jokic hit a triple double.
“Since the All-Star break, it feels like every night is a playoff game,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We played Memphis twice, Cleveland, Clippers, and our guys showed up.”
Ja Morant scored 27 points and 10 assists for the Grizzlies despite wearing a face mask due to a broken nose he sustained in Houston on Wednesday night. Desmond Bean scored 19 points, Jaren Jackson 15 points, Xavier Tillman 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“We did a lot of great things for three quarters and then it just kind of fell apart,” said Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins.
The game was tied at 80 after three quarters, but the Nuggets outscored the Grizzlies 33-17 in the fourth. Murray had two layups, made two free throws and Kentavius Caldwell fed Pope on a three cornerer to give the Nuggets a 96-86 lead.
Murray’s 3-pointer and Porter’s four-point play—which secured Jokic’s 101st career triple—made it 105-86.
“Anyone can shoot, but we would stop, we’d come out and run, the team was pouring. Everyone was so selfless,” Murray said of the fourth quarter.
Memphis shot just 7 of 20 in the final 12 minutes.
“In the fourth, we got some good shots and they didn’t go down, and they started hitting more shots,” said Luke Kennard.
Denver missed their first 11 shots from 3-point range and didn’t get their first catch until late in the second quarter.
The man behind the mask
Morant won’t have this special mask for long. The guard will be outfitted with one on his face by the time the team gets to LA for Sunday’s game.
“This is going to be a temporary kind of standard run kind of thing,” said Jenkins. “Luckily, we’re going to get one that fits him a little more, on the shape of his face and gives him a little more comfort there.”
Memphis forward Dillon Brooks hit his 16th technical foul of the season with 5:45 remaining in the game. Brooks was fined $5,000 and suspended for one game.
Clark was injured
And Grizzlies forward Brandon Clark left in the dying seconds of the first quarter with a lower left leg injury. Clark missed a free throw and began to limp as he went up the court and fell into the half court. He was taken to the locker room without putting weight on his left leg.
Grizzlies: Denver moved its tally to 42 points and 50 points in the first half of its last two games. …C Steven Adams missed his 16th consecutive game with a right knee sprain.
Nuggets: C. Thomas Bryant was helped off the bench after suffering an injury under a Memphis basket in the third quarter. Malone said Bryant could have returned after the game if necessary.
Grizzlies: On the Clippers Sunday night.
Nuggets: Host the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
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