Nikola Jokic plans to spend an off day at the swimming pool with his daughter. He’s not going to spend a moment thinking about basketball.
The Denver big man has certainly earned a break.
An exhausted Jokic had 35 points and 13 rebounds in more than 36 minutes of action to help the Nuggets hold off the Golden State Warriors 108-105 on Wednesday night.
Reggie Jackson, filling in for an injured Jamal Murray, added 20 points to help the defending champion Nuggets improve to an NBA-best 8-1 overall and 6-0 at home.
Jokic played the entire third quarter in an effort to help out a struggling bench unit. He also exerted energy trying to fend off Warriors big man Kevon Looney. Jokic had a chance to wrap it up with 15 seconds left and the Nuggets up 107-105, but missed two free throws.
Stephen Curry’s floater in the lane to tie it up was off the mark and the ball went out of bounds off the Warriors. Jackson hit one of two free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining, and Klay Thompson couldn’t get a shot off at the buzzer.
Michael Porter Jr. scored 17 points for Denver, and Aaron Gordon added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Curry, fresh off winning the Western Conference player of the week award, was hounded all night, mostly by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and finished with 23 points.
Denver led by 12 in the first half, trailed by five early in the fourth quarter and then rallied behind Jackson and Jokic.
What kept the Warriors close was their bench. Golden State’s reserves outscored Denver’s backups 42-12.
“I thought that our bench struggled tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Our young guys, I didn’t think were really prepared to come into the game and play tonight. First time I’ve seen that this season and they’ll learn from it.”
Malone went with veteran Justin Holiday over one of the younger players in the fourth quarter.
“I’m not the Salvation Army. I’m not just going to give minutes,” Malone said. “You have to continue to earn your minutes.”
Both teams were short-handed, with the Nuggets missing Murray for a second straight game because of a strained right hamstring. The Warriors were without p Draymond Green for personal reasons and Gary Payton II due to an illness.
The show within the show was the matchup between former MVPs Curry and Jokic.
Jokic showed his court vision, finishing with five assists and none better than his pass to a cutting Jackson to make it 105-102 with 1:09 remaining. Jokic also came out with a mindset to take more shots against Golden State. He finished 14 of 25, going 1 of 8 from 3-point range.
“He approaches the game different game to game,” Looney explained. “I felt like he was really aggressive today.”
Curry flashed his long-range magic, hitting 6 of 13 from behind the arc. He’s drained four or more 3-pointers in nine straight games to start the season.
“It was a hell of a fight. Our guys really competed and gave themselves a chance to win,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Tough, tough way to finish but couldn’t be more proud of them and more excited about our team.”
Warriors: Host Cleveland on Saturday night after playing seven of their first nine on the road.
Nuggets: At Houston on Sunday night.