Jokic Leads Nuggets To 1st Win Of Season Versus Depleted Rockets
The Denver Nuggets got their first win of the 2020-2021 season versus a diminished Rockets team behind a passing clinic from center Nikola Jokic.
The game started as an offensive showdown, with James Harden going off for 21 second quarter points for the Rockets. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic both had 18 first half points and the halftime score of 70-60 Nuggets indicated a shootout all the way.
Then Denver did what they hadn’t done in their first two games – outscored their opponent in the third quarter. The Nuggets, led by multiple Jokic dimes from the top of the key, turned a 10 point halftime lead into a 23 point blowout by the end of the quarter.
Jokic had a masterpiece of a game, finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and a career high 18 assists. He showed his impact on Denver’s offense as a facilitator, tallying 8 assists without a single field goal attempt in the third quarter alone. He now has 43 career triple doubles, good for 9th all time, in just his 5th season with the Nuggets.
“Early in the season, we’re 0-2 going into the game tonight and he’s taking it upon himself to do more, to bring more to help this team,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said of his star center.
“When your best player, one of your best players, has that mentality, that sets the tone for everybody else.”
When asked if he needed to be more aggressive as a scorer and not just a facilitator, Jokic replied, “I think I need to be more aggressive especially in the second half, I think I didn’t take shots. I think just being more aggressive is going to open up even more space and more open shots for my teammates.”
It wasn’t all Jokic, however – seven different Nuggets scored double figure points. Jamal Murray broke out of a slump with 21 points, and Most Improved Player candidate Michael Porter Jr. added 14 for a deep Nuggets team.
James Harden and Christian Wood led the Rockets with 34 and 23 points, but didn’t get much help from the rest of a team that was dearly missing stars like Eric Gordon, John Wall, and Boogie Cousins to covid.
The Nuggets had an all-around great game, leading the Rockets in assists, three point shooting and points in the paint. It was the Nuggets’ success on the glass, however, that caught Coach Malone’s attention.
“The rebounding, that was a big point of emphasis. When we rebound we win. We won the rebounding battle tonight by 14 which was great to see.”
Denver will look to get revenge for their season opening loss when they take on the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night at 10PM Eastern. Coach Malone emphasized how tough the Kings will be, saying, “It’s going to be a hell of a challenge, obviously they gave us all we could handle on opening night and we’ll need a 48-minute effort to try and give ourselves a chance to get our first road win of the season.”