Michael Porter Jr erupted for a career-high 39 points on 13 of 21 shooting in a 129-116 win over the Houston Rockets. Nikola Jokić added 24 on 10 of 14 shooting with 8 rebounds and 12 assists. 

“They know when they throw it to me if I’m open I’m probably going to shoot and there’s a chance they may get an assist so I don’t know if they’re looking out for me [or for themselves],” Porter Jr. said jokingly of his teammates. “They definitely look to find me but I definitely don’t see anyone when I shoot because I’m 6’10”.

Nine of Porter Jr’s shots came from assists by Jokić and Facu Campazzo, who  had a career high 13 assists.

“He was phenomenal,” Malone said of Facu. “What’s great about his numbers is he had 13 assists and only one turnover. That is a tremendous ratio obviously. So he made all of his teammates better and he made all the right decisions… he’s also relentless on the defensive end of the floor.”

The Nuggets had just gotten back from San Francisco at 3am after a tough loss against the Warriors and bounced back with a great performance without Jamal Murray, Monté Morris and Will Barton. Michael Malone said pregame that Barton suffered a pretty significant hamstring injury and would be out for the foreseeable future.

That means Jokić and company must step up even more and we saw a glimpse of that on Saturday night. the MVP leader said he has to expand his role even more and be more vocal moving forward. 

“I’m an example and I lead by example,” Jokić said. “I think I need to be more vocal and take more pressure on myself to help those guys.”

With Barton out, PJ Dozier got his first career NBA start and finished the night with a career high 23 points on 10 of 13 shooting from the field and 3 of 5 from three to go along with 7 rebounds and zero turnovers. He got the Nuggets off to a hot start knocking down three straight threes for 9 points in the first 5 minutes. 

“It’s always good to see the first one go in and it kind of builds your confidence that way,” Dozier said. “I’m going to continue to take those open looks. Those are shots that we have to knock down as a team and when it’s my time to take the shot I have enough confidence in myself that they’re going to go in.” 

Porter Jr said he sees some similarities in Dozier and Barton’s game and thinks Dozier fits perfectly into the starting lineup.

“They kind of have similar games in the way they can create for others,” Porter Jr said. “They can get downhill and get their own shot so he’s going to fill that Will Barton role while he’s out for a couple weeks pretty well. We all trust PJ.”

Nikola Jokić added 16 points in the first on 7 of 8 shooting and got everything he wanted down low. Denver had a 10-point lead but allowed Houston to get within one point with 2:26 left. The Nuggets then responded with a 10-0 run to close the quarter to take a 36-26 lead. 

Second quarter, Porter Jr was on fire from three hitting three straight and scoring 14 points in the quarter. The Nuggets went 15 of 23 from the field and 5 of 8 from three while holding the Rockets to 7 of 15 from the field and 0 of 5 from downtown. The Nuggets led by as many as 23 in the quarter and closed the first half up 72-50 after a Jokić outlet pass to Dozier for a dunk with .1 seconds left. 

“He’s one of the best quarterbacks I’ve seen thus far and that’s in the NBA and the NFL,” Dozier said of Jokić with a laugh. 

Porter Jr. carried his momentum into the third quarter and put up 10 points on 3 of 4 shooting from the field. Despite a poor defensive effort by the Nuggets, their offense made up for it as they extended their lead to 26 points. Dozier added 8 points on 4 of 5 shooting in the quarter while Jokić put up 6. Denver went up 102-82 to close the third quarter. 

Fourth quarter, Malone wasn’t pleased with his teams’ defensive effort but overall was impressed with their performance coming off of a back to back. Porter Jr continued shooting at a high clip with both Jokić and Aaron Gordon on the bench in the fourth quarter. The Rockets outscored the Nuggets 34-27 in the quarter but it wasn’t enough as Denver closed it out 129-116. 

The Nuggets finally have a day off on Sunday and will resume play on Monday at home against the Grizzlies.