HOUSTON – When Nikola Jokic was presented with the game ball by Denver coach Michael Malone after recording his 100th career triple-double, Malone said the superstar seemed almost embarrassed by the gesture.
“He is a unique person who doesn’t want any of the attention or credit,” Malone said. “He just wants to go about his business and help this team win its first championship.”
Jokic had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his NBA-leading 24th triple-double this season and his 15th in the last 20 games, and the Nuggets beat the Houston Rockets 133-112 on Tuesday night.
The Nuggets have won each game in which he’s had a triple-double this season and 28 straight dating back to last season. Jamal Murray added 32 points.
Jokic needed just three quarters to become the sixth player in league history with 100 triple-doubles, with the big man sitting out the entire fourth with the game out of hand.
He seemed nonplussed by the accomplishment, calling it “nice” and when pushed to note the rarity of what he'd just done, he deferred to the team.
“I appreciate how we played,” he said. “That’s what I appreciate. But all the, let’s say achievements, awards, contracts or whatever, it’s just — I don’t want to say coming naturally — but you don’t chase it. It’s really nice. I think it’s going to be the best when you finish (your) career and just look behind you and see what you did.”
He joins Russell Westbrook (198), Oscar Robertson (181), Magic Johnson (138), Jason Kidd (107) and LeBron James (106) as the only players to have accomplished the feat.
There wasn't any hint of a celebration in the locker room after his big night. He sat alone at his locker with an ice pack on his back as he ate popcorn from a small box by pouring it directly into his mouth.
The only evidence of the two-time MVP's milestone was that game ball in his locker that his teammates signed to commemorate the moment.
“I think all of us in Denver — I challenge myself to do this — should never take him for granted, never take his greatness for granted,” Malone said. “Because I grew up in this business... and things can change quickly so I make sure I appreciate everything he does.
“And for him to be mentioned with all these historical accomplishments just reminds you that we are so blessed to have a guy like Nikola, who is as talented as he is, who accomplishes all these things on the court, but the most important and impressive thing about Nikola is with that he’s so humble.”
The hapless Rockets were done in by a balanced scoring attack by the Nuggets, a game after allowing Damian Lillard to score a career-high 71 points in a loss to the Trail Blazers on Sunday.
Michael Porter Jr. added 17 points and Bruce Brown had 15 off the bench to help the Nuggets to their second consecutive victory and sixth in the last seven games.
Jalen Green had 17 points in his return after missing two games with a strained left groin and rookie Tari Eason also scored 17 as the Rockets dropped their 10th in a row.
Green said seeing how a team like Denver plays could help the Rockets learn how to be better.
“They move the ball a lot,” he said. “Moving without the ball, relocating. A lot of times we get stagnant and we just watch whoever has the ball. They never did that. That's something we can take from them.”
Denver, which leads the Western Conference, never trailed and dominated Houston for most of the night. The Nuggets led by as many as 26 and were up 106-84 entering the fourth quarter.
Denver was up by 20 with about nine minutes left when Malone took the rest of his starters out and cleared the bench.
The Nuggets were up by 20 at halftime and had stretched the lead to 86-60 with about 8 ½ minutes left in the third quarter after a 6-0 run, with the last four points from Porter. The Rockets then went on an 11-5 run, powered by seven points from Green, to get within 91-71 midway through the quarter.
Denver got going again after that, using an 8-2 spurt to make it 99-73 a couple of minutes later.
Nuggets: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 14 points and six assists. ...Aaron Gordon scored 11 with five assists and seven rebounds. ...Denver made 16 3-pointers.
Rockets: Coach Stephen Silas said Kevin Porter Jr. is expected to return Wednesday night after missing 20 games with a bruised toe. … Boban Marjanovic delighted the home crowd when he came in late in the fourth quarter and scored eight points. ...Eason led the team with 12 rebounds.
Nuggets: Host Memphis Friday night.
Rockets: Host Memphis Wednesday night. ___
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