Nuggets blow out Cavaliers 124-102 behind Jokic’s triple-double

Cleveland Cavaliers center Ante Zizic (41) guards Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center.
Jan 19, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Ante Zizic (41) guards Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

After a 30-point beatdown of the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night, the Denver Nuggets followed it up with another dominating performance in a 124-102 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With the win, Denver’s record moves to 31-14, which is good for a half game behind the Golden State Warriors for first place in the Western Conference. The victory was also Denver’s 20th home win as their record at the Pepsi Center moves to 20-4 on the year. The Nuggets home record is tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for the best mark in the NBA.

It was not the best of starts for Denver as Cleveland jumped out to a 15-12 lead with 6:27 left in the first quarter. The good news for the home team was that Malik Beasley was hitting his shots early as he had two 3-pointers to lead the way offensively. Nikola Jokic followed Beasley’s lead with back-to-back 3s of his own to help Denver tie the game with just over five minutes remaining in the quarter. Jokic’s second three was the start of a 12-0 run for Denver as they built a nine-point lead with 2:48 left in the opening period.

Jokic would hit another 3-pointer before the quarter was all said and done as the Nuggets held a 37-25 lead after 12 minutes of play. The Nuggets offense continued to play at a high level in quarter number two as they opened with a 6-0 run to stretch their lead to 18 points. Denver only built on their lead as a Jamal Murray 3-pointer gave the Nuggets a 57-32 lead with 5:26 left in the half.

Denver controlled the pace of play to finish the half as they took a 70-46 lead into the halftime locker room. At the break, Jokic led the way offensively with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field. Jokic also chipped in seven assists and five assists to put him on triple-double watch going into half number two. Murray also had a great first half with 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.

In the first half, Denver shot a scorching 27-41 (67 percent) from the field and a solid 10-of-20 from 3-point range. Jokic, Murray, and Beasley combined to score eight of the Nuggets first half 3s, while Will Barton and Monte Morris chipped in the other two. Both Beasley and Morris also had solid first halves as they each chipped in nine points a piece, while Barton scored five points of his own.

The Nuggets dominance continued into the third quarter as Denver held a 87-62 lead with 5:50 left in the period. Once Jokic collected his sixth triple-double of the year at the 3:27 mark of the third quarter, it was clear Denver had the game in hand. Murray also had a huge third quarter as he scored 10 to put the game out of reach for Cleveland.

Going into the fourth quarter, Denver pushed their lead to 101-76, which allowed the starters to rest for the remaining 12 minutes of action. For the second game in a row, Jokic, Murray and Paul Millsap were able to rest the entire fourth quarter as the second unit helped seal the victory for Denver. The Nuggets second unit, consisting of Gary Harris and Barton, meant Denver stayed firmly in control to close the game. In the end, Denver was able to walk away with a 124-102 win to give them their 31st victory of the season.

Stat leaders for the Nuggets were Jokic, who finished with 19 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds to give him his 22nd career triple-double. Jokic did all that on an extremely efficient 8-of-12 shooting from the field to go along with his three makes from distance. Murray also had a big night as he finished with 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field to go along with his four 3-pointers. The Nuggets also got contributions from Morris (15), Millsap (14), Beasley (13), and Trey Lyles (16) as they all scored in double-figures.

Denver now has three days off before they are back in action Wednesday night in Utah to face the Jazz.