Nikola Jokic overcame a gash on his head to finish with 35 points and 16 rebounds while grabbing a piece of NBA history as the host Denver Nuggets beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 122-109, to clinch a Western Conference playoff spot on Thursday night, April 7 (Friday, April 8, Manila time).
Jokic became the first NBA player ever to compile 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a single season. He needed 31 points to reach the milestone and returned in the fourth quarter to hit the mark.
Aaron Gordon had 22 points, Bones Hyland and Will Barton scored 16 apiece, and Monte Morris had 10 for the Nuggets (48-33), who secured at least the sixth seed in the West. Denver won for the fifth time in seven games.
Desmond Bane scored 14 points, Dillon Brooks and Ziaire Williams had 12 each, De’Anthony Melton, Kyle Anderson and Brandon Clarke added 11 apiece and Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 10 for the Grizzlies (55-25).
Second-place Memphis has dropped two in a row after an 11-1 stretch.
Jokic sustained a cut on his head in the first minute of the game when he was hit with an inadvertent elbow by Jackson. Jokic was bleeding profusely before being bandaged, and he wore a red headband the rest of the night.
Memphis led by 10 early and was up 25-16 late in the first quarter before the Nuggets took control.
Gordon started the comeback with a pair of three-pointers and had a three-point play to spark a 16-0 run that gave Denver the lead.
The Nuggets pulled away in the second. Hyland hit a three-pointer, Jokic made a 14-footer, and Gordon had a dunk as part of a 9-2 run that stretched the lead to 17.
The Grizzlies got within 12, but Denver scored the next 9 points to go ahead 68-47 en route to a 70-53 halftime edge.
Jokic opened the second half with a three-pointer and Gordon sank a fadeaway jumper to make it a 22-point game. After Memphis got within 18, Denver went on an 11-2 run to lead by 27, then pushed the advantage to 101-71 on a dunk by Jokic.
The Grizzlies cut it to 18 in the fourth before Jokic scored six consecutive points to help Denver hold on. – Rappler.com