Michael Porter Jr. scored a career-high 39 points, Nikola Jokic had 24 points and the Denver Nuggets beat the undermanned Houston Rockets 129-116 on Saturday night.
P.J. Dozier started at guard in place of the injured Will Barton and added a career-high 23 points for the Nuggets. They are 13-3 in their last 16 games while dealing with a wave of backcourt injuries.
“I was really pleased offensively,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We came from a game last night where the ball wasn’t moving a whole lot (118-97 loss at Golden State). It was kind of being held and we didn’t make the defense work for us. Tonight, we had 36 assists — that’s a great number for us. Getting one win in this league is hard. I’ve said that before and I’m happy we got it.”
The Rockets, too, have been besieged by injuries and roster upheaval and only seven players logged playing time against the Nuggets. D.J. Wilson led Houston with 25 points, Kelly Olynyk had 21 and Kenyon Martin Jr. 18.
Denver swept the three-game season series. “It’s definitely tough when you’ve got nobody coming in to save you,” Olynyk said of the Rockets’ seven-man rotation. “You’re basically rotating one guy in the second half there. It’s nice because you can get in a rhythm and for a young guy you don’t have to look over your shoulder at all. But you’re going to have to figure it out and make plays and all that. It’s definitely good experience for these young guys.”
The Nuggets asserted themselves from the outset with Dozier and Porter setting the tone early by hitting 3-pointers in the opening minutes. Porter finished with eight.
A length-of-the-court pass from Jokic to Dozier resulted in a running dunk in the last second of the second quarter that gave the Nuggets a 72-50 halftime lead.
Houston played the Nuggets evenly through the third quarter, but still trailed 102-82 heading into the final period. The Rockets could make little headway into the deficit the rest of the way as the Nuggets began substituting freely midway through the final quarter. BIG CATCH
Dozier was asked in a postgame zoom call what came into his mind after catching Jokic’s length-of-court pass and finishing the play with a running dunk just before the first-half buzzer. “Touchdown!” Dozier said, putting both of his arms up. “He’s one of the best quarterbacks I’ve seen thus far and that’s in the NBA and NFL.” Jokic finished with 12 assists. Facundo Campazzo had a career high 13.
Rockets: G John Wall had the night off — the second of a back to back set for Houston — as part of the management of a left Achilles tendon injury that he initially suffered in early 2019. … F Christian Wood was ruled out because of right ankle soreness.
Nuggets: Barton suffered “a pretty serious” right hamstring strain in the opening minutes of Friday night’s game at Golden State and there’s no definitive timetable for his return. “I don’t expect Will will be back in uniform in the foreseeable future,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said in a pregame zoom call. The Nuggets have been hit hard by injuries at the guard position. Jamal Murray was lost in late March to a season-ending knee injury and Monte Morris remains sidelined by a right hamstring injury.
Rockets: Host Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Nuggets: Host Memphis on Monday night.