The generally unselfish, fundamentally sound and versatile Nikola Jokic did precisely what Denver head coach Mike Malone wanted with the game in the balance.
Jokic imposed his will with two powerful, driving reverse layups that prevented the undermanned Pelicans from pulling off a second straight victory over a contending team.
Jokic finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his eighth triple-double this season and also blocked two shots to lead the Nuggets to a 105-99 win in New Orleans on Wednesday night.
“Everybody knows where the ball is going and Nikola Jokic is our closer — and that’s what you want from your franchise player, your All-Star, your MVP, whatever you want to call him — down the stretch. Give him the ball and let him make plays,” Malone said. “He wants it. He has the confidence and he’s been delivering, which is the best thing about it.”
Malik Beasley scored 22 points, and Monte Morris added 20 to help the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets win their fourth straight.
Kenrich Williams hit 5 of 9 3-point shots and scored a career-high 21 for the Pelicans.
Trail Blazers 132, Jazz 105: Damian Lillard had 36 points and 11 assists to lead host Portland past Utah. Lillard’s backcourt mate, CJ McCollum, was excellent as well, scoring 30 points in the win. He made all nine of his shots in the first quarter and had 20 points by the end of the period. Donovan Mitchell had 22 points to lead the Jazz.
Celtics 126, Hornets 94: Jaylen Brown had 24 points and 10 rebounds, Jayson Tatum scored 20 points and host Boston rolled over Charlotte despite Kyrie Irving’s absence. Terry Rozier had 17 points and tied a career high with 10 assists in place of Irving, the guard who missed his second straight game with a left hip strain.
Kings 135, Hawks 113: Harry Giles came off the bench and scored 12 of his season-high 20 points in the third quarter, Marvin Bagley III added 17 points and 12 rebounds, and host Sacramento romped past Atlanta.
Timberwolves 99, Grizzlies 97: Karl-Anthony Towns hit a buzzer-beating desperation shot in overtime to lift Minnesota past visiting Memphis. The Grizzlies led twice during overtime, but Towns helped the Timberwolves prevail.
Mavericks 114, Knicks 90: Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 14 points in what might have been his final appearance at Madison Square Garden, Luka Doncic warmed up after an airball on his first shot in the arena to score 16 points, and Dallas rolled. Dennis Smith Jr. had his second career triple-double with 13 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds. Harrison Barnes led the Mavericks with 19 points.
Wizards 107, Pacers 89: Bradley Beal scored 25 points, Jeff Green added 23 to lead another productive night from Washington’s bench, and the host Wizards beat Indiana. Green had 16 points in the first half to help spell Beal.
Bulls 105, Heat 89: Bobby Portis scored 22 of his 26 points in the second half, Wayne Selden added 20 and visiting Chicago took control in the second half to beat Miami. The Bulls finished January with a 2-13 record — the franchise’s second-worst mark ever in that month. Tyler Johnson scored 15 points for the Heat.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Nikola-Jokic-takes-control-to-lead-Nuggets-past-13576003.php.