Nikola Jokic’s boxscore stats
- 33 minutes played and added 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 0 blocks and 2 steals.
- 8/14 field goals made-attempted (FG%: 57.1%)
- 1/3 three point field goals made-attempted (3P%: 33.3%)
- 4/4 free throws made-attempted (FT% 100.0%)
- 2 fouls and 3 turnovers.
Nuggets public address announcer Kyle Speller kept hollering “defense!” every time the Lakers brought the ball up the floor. And for much of Friday, that command felt like a lost cause. The Lakers had clear paths to the basket and free space behind the 3-point line, helping them climb out of a double-digit first-half deficit and keep regaining the edge when they traded baskets in the final period.
And then Denver locked down just in time, using a fourth-quarter push led by timely baskets — and a block — by Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic to escape with a 125-116 victory Friday night at the Pepsi Center.
The Nuggets, who outscored the Lakers 31-20 in the fourth quarter, entered Friday in ninth place in the Western Conference standings, percentage points behind the eighth-place Clippers (who hosted Cleveland late Friday) and just ahead of 10th-place Utah (which beat the Grizzlies on Friday) because of their edge in the division-record tiebreaker.
Millsap, who finished with 21 points and six rebounds in his best game since returning from a three-month absence because of wrist surgery, gave Denver a 112-110 lead with a three-point play with 4:24 to play. Then, with the Nuggets clinging to a 116-114 lead, Millsap drilled a 3-pointer to increase that advantage to two possessions. Jokic (21 points, six rebounds, six assists) then answered a Lonzo Ball conversion inside with a tip-in to push Denver’s lead to 121-116 with 40.3 seconds remaining. Millsap all but clinched the game with a blocked shot on Ball — which was originally called goaltending but then overturned — with 34.8 seconds to play.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) March 10, 2018
After a Will Barton finish off the glass gave Denver a 101-100 lead with 8:49 to play, Kyle Kuzma answered with a layup to kick-start a three-minute stretch of trading baskets. A Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 3-pointer broke a 107-107 tie with 6:03 to play, before a Nuggets’ 9-0 spurt to take the lead for good.
The Lakers’ Brook Lopez led all scorers with 29 points, while Julius Randle added 18 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Lakers, who are lottery-bound while rebuilding with a young team but had entered Friday with six wins in their last seven games, seized the advantage with a 15-4 run late in the third quarter. Kuzma gave the Lakers a 91-90 lead when he followed his own missed jumper with a layup with 2:44 left in the period.
The Nuggets led by as many as 13 points in the first half and by 10 at 57-47 when Harris drilled a 3 with four minutes remaining before the break. But the Lakers closed the period on a 15-8 run — including long-range shots from Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope and Lopez — to close that gap to 65-62.
Denver next hosts Sacramento Sunday afternoon, before a trip to Los Angeles for its final matchup against the Lakers on Tuesday.