HOUSTON (AP)Nikola Jokic scored 29 points, Michael Porter Jr. added 21 and the Denver Nuggets cruised to a 128-99 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
Jokic dominated in the paint, hitting 10 of 12 field goals and adding 16 rebounds. Jokic fell three assists shy of his 16th triple-double of the season and second in as many games. He played just 27 minutes in the game and not at all in the fourth quarter.
”What makes him the MVP is he hasn’t missed any games, he has this team – and we’ve had some injuries – in the top four of a very deep and talented Western Conference,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. ”And then you talk about his stats and efficiency, and it’s historical numbers. We’re fortunate to have him and we all realize that.”
Porter was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. Coming off the bench, JaMychal Green scored 13 points, and Paul Millsap had 11 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Will Barton added 12 points.
”We still made some silly mistakes tonight, but overall, we’ve been playing good basketball the last few games,” Porter said. ”We’ve definitely got to up it, especially without Jamal (Murray) because he’s such a big part of the team.”
Denver made just 9 of 31 from 3 but bullied Houston in the paint, outscoring the Rockets 62-52 from close range and outrebounding them 54-35.
Denver led 69-49 at halftime and stretched the lead to 29 points by the end of the game.
”Before we left the locker room, I asked the players, `What do you think worries me the most about this game?”’ Malone said. ”Will Barton immediately said, `Us.’ Good teams handle their business, and I thought tonight, we really did that.”
The Nuggets have won 10 of their last 12 games, winning six of those games by double digits.
Houston hit 11 of 35 from 3 but couldn’t make the defensive stops needed to hang with Denver. The Rockets committed 14 turnovers, while the Nuggets committed just nine.
Denver snapped an eight-game losing streak in Houston.
Kelly Olynyk had 23 points for Houston. Jae’Sean Tate had 21 points, and Christian Wood added 15.
Denver outscored Houston 32-14 in second-chance points.
”They’ve got some big bodies out there,” Olynyk said. ”We’ve got to make a more concerted effort, especially in a game like that. We’ve got to square ourselves up and give ourselves an opportunity.”
John Wall had 10 points, two assists and seven turnovers in 28 minutes.
After playing eight games in 13 days, the Nuggets have a relatively lean week ahead, playing just two games in the six days after Friday night.
Nuggets: Malone said before the game that he’s been concerned about how much has been asked of Aaron Gordon and said he’s had conversations with Gordon to try to rest and limit his minutes when possible. In Friday night’s blowout win, Gordon played just 22 minutes, his lightest load since his Denver debut on March 28, when he played less than 21 minutes.
Rockets: D.J. Augustin (left ankle sprain) and Sterling Brown (left knee soreness) remained sidelined. . Of the nine Rockets who played in the first game at Denver on Dec. 28, only Wood and Tate were still with the team and available to play Friday night.
NO SELFIES FOR THE JOKER?
”He’s not worried about all the limelight and the ego and all that other stuff. I really get a kick out of guys on Twitter who take pictures of themselves and posting that. Who does that? I’ve never seen Nikola once take a picture of himself and post it, and that’s what I love about him on top of being a great, great player.” — Malone on Jokic
BOTTOM OF THE STANDINGS
With the loss on Friday night and Minnesota’s 119-111 win over Miami, the Rockets moved into sole possession of the worst record in the NBA at 14-42. They’ve won just three of their last 35 games. Houston’s 2021 first-round pick is protected in the top four picks, otherwise, it goes to Oklahoma City as part of a 2019 trade for Russell Westbrook.
Nuggets: Get a two-day break before hosting Memphis on Monday night.
Rockets: Visit Orlando on Sunday night for a back-to-back Florida road trip.