Jokic leads Nuggets past Wolves as Mavs sink Spurs

Jokic leads Nuggets past Wolves as Mavs sink Spurs
Jokic leads Nuggets past Wolves as Mavs sink Spurs

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LOS ANGELES: Nikola Jokic scored 35 points as the Denver Nuggets held off a second-half rally by the Minnesota Timberwolves to record a 115-112 victory over their Western Conference rivals on Tuesday.

Serbian star Jokic shepherded Denver over the line after Minnesota erased an 18-point second-quarter deficit to seriously rattle the reigning NBA champions.

Minnesota, missing the injured Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, had a last-gasp attempt to force overtime only for Anthony Edwards’ three-point attempt to bounce off the rim.

Denver move into second place in the Western Conference with a 48-21 record.

Oklahoma City Thunder lead the standings at 47-20 while Minnesota remain firmly in the hunt in third at 47-22.

The Timberwolves came roaring back into the game after a third-quarter shooting spree that saw them outscore Denver 29-17 thanks to 14 points from Edwards, who finished with 30 on the night.

But defensive adjustments from Denver slowed Edwards’ scoring rate in the fourth quarter and the Nuggets held on.

“We threw an extra body at him,” Denver coach Michael Malone said of his fourth-quarter tactical tweak to stymie Edwards.

“One guy trying to guard Anthony Edwards is a challenge for anyone in the NBA so we started throwing bodies at him to get the ball out of his hands.”

Kyrie Irving finished with 28 points while Luka Doncic bagged his 18th triple double of the season as the Dallas Mavericks overpowered the San Antonio Spurs 113-107 in a Texas derby.

Dallas improve to 40-29 to leave them in seventh place in the Western Conference, just outside the automatic playoff places heading into the final month of the regular season.

Doncic finished with 18 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds to help drive Dallas to a second straight victory.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd admitted his team had been forced to grind out the win despite not playing their best.

“It does count as a W. Not all wins are pretty,” Kidd said. “We relied on our defense to help us get this win.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his team — who are propping up the Western Conference with a 15-54 record — paid the price for making too many turnovers.

“We outrebounded them, we shot better than they did, we outscored them in the third quarter and the fourth quarter, and we had basically the same number of assists,” Popovich said.

“But we had 16 turnovers, and that’s the difference of the game.”

Popovich however was encouraged by signs of progress from his young team.

“Our goal is to get better every game, individually and team-wise, and they did that,” Popovich said. “They busted their asses and played to win. You can’t ask for anything else.”

In other games, the New Orleans Pelicans continued their recent good run of form with a third straight win, beating the Brooklyn Nets 104-91 on the road in New York.

After two lead changes in the first quarter, the Pelicans dominated thereafter, stretching into a 24-point lead just before half-time and maintaining a healthy double-digit advantage for the remainder of the game.

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson led the romp with 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists on a night when seven New Orleans players finished in double figures.

“I thought first half we really set the tone, second half got a little sloppy, but overall a really good effort on the part of our guys,” Pelicans head coach Willie Green said.

Green was satisfied that so many of his team made significant scoring contributions.

“It’s important that any of our guys that touch the floor compete, rebound, share the ball,” Green said.

“Overall, solid effort, we’ll take it.”

The Orlando Magic extended their winning streak to four games with a 112-92 triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.

The Houston Rockets trounced the Washington Wizards 137-114 on the road thanks to a 42-point display from Jalen Green, with Amen Thompson adding 25.

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