Nikola Jokic tips in winner, Isaiah Thomas debuts as Nuggets beat Kings

Ejected in the first half, Denver head coach Michael Malone didn’t get an in-person look at Isaiah Thomas’ first 3-pointer in a Nuggets uniform. Malone couldn’t watch from his usual vantage point as Nikola Jokic tipped in the winner.

The raucous reverberations from inside the arena told him everything.

Jokic knocked in a basket with less than a second remaining, Thomas hit two big 3-pointers in his long-awaited Denver debut and the Nuggets held off the visiting Kings 120-118 on Wednesday night.

The Nuggets head into the All-Star break with a 39-18 record, two games back of the Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference.

“This was one of the few home games that’s gone down to the wire, which is good for us,” said Malone, who received two technicals just before halftime. “We need to continue to be challenged and be forced to execute and get stops.”

Jokic finished with 20 points, 18 rebounds and 11 assists for his 28th career triple-double, and Paul Millsap matched a season high with 25 points to help Denver overcome a 17-point first-half deficit.

Thomas, 30, proclaimed his surgically repaired hip good to go and received a standing ovation when he entered the game late in the first quarter. He showed flashes of his ability, playing 13 minutes and scoring eight points — all in the third quarter — in his first NBA game since March 22 when he was with the Lakers.

“When my name is called, I’m going to always be ready,” Thomas said. “When I’m in the game, I’m going to make it hard for the coach to take me out.”

Buddy Hield, who tied it with a layup with 15.1 seconds left before Jokic’s game-winner, led six Sacramento players in double figures with 25 points.

Timberwolves 121, Rockets 111: Jeff Teague scored 27 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 and host Minnesota overcame James Harden’s 42 points to beat Houston. Harden had his 31st consecutive game with 30 or more points, tying Wilt Chamberlain for the second-longest streak in league history.

Nets 148, Cavaliers 139: D’Angelo Russell scored 14 of his 36 points in the third overtime and visiting Brooklyn outlasted Cleveland. DeMarre Carroll’s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer of the second overtime tied the game, and Nets carried the momentum into the third extra session. Jordan Clarkson scored a career-high 42 points for the Cavaliers.

Raptors 129, Wizards 120: Pascal Siakam scored a career-high 44 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, OG Anunoby scored a career-best 22 points, and host Toronto won its sixth straight. Palo Alto High alum Jeremy Lin played 25 minutes in his Toronto debut after signing earlier in the day. He was recently waived by the Hawks. Toronto won without All-Star Kawhi Leonard, who sat for the second time in four games because of a sore left knee.

76ers 126, Knicks 111: Joel Embiid had 26 points, 14 rebounds and one flying leap over an award-winning actress into the crowd, and visiting Philadelphia handed New York its 18th straight loss. It was during the third that Embiid gave the 76ers and plenty of people sitting courtside a scare when he tried to chase down a ball going to the sideline. He went flying just over the head of actress Regina King, who won the Best Supporting Actress award at the Golden Globes for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and crashed into the MSG Network statistician working next to broadcaster Mike Breen. The statistician somehow stayed in the game.

Bucks 106, Pacers 97: Giannis Antetokounmpo started fast and finished strong, picking up a triple-double to help Milwaukee rally late for a victory at Indiana. The three-time All-Star had 33 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists, leading the Bucks back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. NBA-leading Milwaukee has won eight of nine overall and seven straight on the road — its longest road winning streak since 1984-85.

Heat 112, Mavericks 101: Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in what figures to be his final game on the court where he won his first championship, helping Miami prevail at Dallas. The 37-year-old who has said this is his final season was a little better despite one of the stronger games of the season for Dirk Nowitzki, his two-time NBA Finals foe whose record-21st season with the same franchise has the feel of an unofficial farewell tour. The 40-year-old German finished two points shy of his season high with 12.

Celtics 118, Pistons 110: Jayson Tatum scored 19 points and Gordon Hayward finished with 18 for host Boston. Hayward added eight assists and five rebounds in his first start since Dec. 21. Blake Griffin led Detroit with 32 points and eight rebounds. Andre Drummond added 21 points and 17 rebounds.

Bulls 122, Grizzlies 110: Otto Porter Jr. scored a career-high 37 points on 16-for-20 shooting and Robin Lopez added season-high 25 points for Chicago, which ended a franchise-record 11-game home losing streak. Before the game, Memphis signed forward Bruno Caboclo to a multi-year contract after having first signing him to consecutive 10-day contracts.

Clippers 134, Suns 107: Lou Williams scored 30 points, Danilo Gallinari added 20 and host Los Angeles sent Phoenix to its 15th straight loss, tying a franchise mark set late last season. It is the second straight game that Williams has scored 30 or more points. He had a season-high 45 in Monday’s loss at Minnesota. Kelly Oubre Jr. led the Suns with a career-high 28 points, and Deandre Ayton added 20.

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