DENVER – All-Star center Nikola Jokic, who was one rebound shy of a triple-double, made five free-throws in the closing stages of the game to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 121-112 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Pepsi Center on Tuesday night.
In the duel between the second and third-placed teams in the Western Conference, the Nuggets improved to 42-18 to maintain their first place position in their division.
The Thunder dropped to 38-22 on the season and are four games behind Denver. The reigning NBA champions Golden State Warriors lead the West with a record of 43-17.
“I give our guys credit because we had enough poise to stop the run, execute down the stretch and get enough stops to get the win,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
“To have beaten them three times says a lot about our team and I don’t even think we’ve played our best basketball yet,” he added.
In 35 minutes of play, Jokic scored 36 points, had nine rebounds and made 10 assists, narrowly missing his 13th triple-double of the season for the Nuggets, who won their fifth consecutive game and ninth straight at home.
The center shot 11-of-25 from the field and 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
Forward Will Barton scored 23 points and guard Jamal Murray added another 20 for Denver, along with five assists.
Paul Millsap notched his fourth-straight double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds while point guard Isaiah Thomas came off the bench to add 11 points.
“Good team win tonight, on 2 the next 1! The Pepsi center was rocking tonight. The fans were amazing!!” Thomas tweeted after the win.
Paul George top-scored for the Thunder with 25 points while point guard Russell Westbrook also came close to a triple-double with 22 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists.
Jerami Grant added 21 points for Oklahoma City, which overcame an 18-point deficit in the second half of the game but failed to take the lead as it slipped to its second consecutive defeat, and fourth in its last 10.