Jokic stars as Denver halts Utah’s 11-game win streak
Denver center Nikola Jokic matched his career high with 47 points as the Nuggets cooled off the hottest team in the NBA on Sunday with a 128-117 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Jokic erupted for 33 points in the first half — 22 in the first quarter — and added 12 rebounds for his 20th double-double to start the season.
The Nuggets brought an emphatic end to Utah’s 11-game winning streak, the longest in the league this season.
Their victory, coupled with the Los Angeles Clippers’ 129-115 victory over the Knicks in New York, saw the Clippers move ahead of the Jazz atop the Western Conference with a league-leading record of 16-5.
“I’m just happy that we won the game,” Jokic said after the Nuggets, who broke Utah’s hearts with a comeback playoff series win last season, improved to 12-8.
“At this moment they are the best team in the NBA, they’re playing amazing, they had 11 wins in a row, they are shooting the ball really well.
“This was a really nice win for us,” Jokic said.
The Nuggets led by as many as 28 points, using a first-half three-point barrage to bury the Jazz.
The Nuggets were a perfect eight-for-eight from three-point range in the first quarter and made 15 of their total 18 from beyond the arc in the first half.
Will Barton drained five three-pointers on the way to 18 points and Jamal Murray added 16 points for Denver.
The Nuggets led by as many as 28 in the third quarter before the Jazz twice reduced the deficit to single figures.
Denver’s JaMychal Green scored all of his nine points in the fourth quarter and fellow reserve Facundo Campazzo added six of his 11 in the final frame as the Nuggets pulled away again.
Bojan Bogdanovic paced the Jazz with 29 points. Donovan Mitchell added 13 and Rudy Gobert, Royce O’Neale and Mike Conley added 12 apiece.
But having seven players in double figures and making 20 three-pointers wasn’t enough to keep the Jazz from losing for the first time since January 6.
At Madison Square Garden, Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points to lead six Clippers in double figures against the Knicks.
The imposing New York defense, allowing the fewest points per game in the league, couldn’t find an answer as the Clippers pulled away in the third quarter, stretching a one-point halftime lead to double digits.
Leonard and Reggie Jackson scored 10 points apiece in the third quarter, when the Clippers connected on 13 of 19 shots from the field.
The Knicks, led by Julius Randle’s 27 points, cut the deficit to two points with 7:44 left to play.
But a dunk by Ivica Zubac launched a 9-0 Clippers run that saw Los Angeles regain control on the way to a third straight win.