Nikola Jokic made his return from a sprained left hip flexor after a three-game absence against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Even though it was Jokic’s first game in more than a week, the Denver Nuggets young center looked anything but rusty.
Jokic scored 20 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out 11 assists — his first career triple-double — as the Nuggets (22-27) snapped a two-game losing streak and hung on to beat the Bucks (21-28) 121-117.
“It’s a testament to how talented he is,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said after the game. “How much his team needs him. It was not a coincidence that we got 31 assists tonight. The ball was moving, we were playing together, and Nikola is a big part of it. We gave him a ball in the locker room. This will be the first of many triple-doubles. Terrific job by him.”
Jokic shot 8-for-15 from the field and had several highlight-worthy assists in front on an unusually lively crowd at the Pepsi Center.
He completed the triple-double with a full-court heave to Kenneth Faried, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Denver led by as many as 22 points. It survived 23 second-half points from Bucks forward Jabari Parker.
Six Nuggets scored in double figures. Wilson Chandler had a team-high 23, while Jamal Murray (18), Gary Harris (14) and Darrell Arthur (10) all made significant contributions.
The Nuggets broke the 120-point barrier for the seventh time since Jan. 12. Jokic, as usual, was the key to it all. His teammates presented him with a special ball to commemorate the triple-double.
Jokic spent his postgame mostly cracking jokes. He kidded that he hugged Malone after the game while wearing a little less clothing than Malone might have liked.
He was then asked how many minutes he expects to play against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday. “If I’m coach, 49,” he said.
There are only 48 minutes in an NBA game.
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