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    Malone relieved as Nuggets squeak past Thunder: ‘No such thing as an ugly win’

    Feb 13, 2021

    DENVER — Nikola Jokic finished an assist shy of a triple-double, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds to help the Denver Nuggets rally for a 97-95 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night (Saturday, Manila time).

    Jamal Murray also scored 22 points and Michael Porter Jr. finished with 15 for Denver, which trailed most of the game before winning its second straight.

    "There's no such thing as an ugly win," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "I'd much rather be 14-11 than 13-12 with the Lakers coming to town on Sunday."

    The Thunder were coming off two overtime losses to the Lakers in Los Angeles despite being shorthanded. Oklahoma City had just eight players available Wednesday and only nine Friday night.

    "There's going to be nights like that. The main thing you want to focus on is the way you compete," Kenrich Williams said. "The past three games, although we didn't win...I'm proud of the way we competed."

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    Justin Jackson led Oklahoma City with 20 points off the bench, and Al Horford and Hamidou Diallo had 16 each.

    The Thunder led by as many as 19 in the first half. After Denver cut it to nine early in the third quarter, Oklahoma City built a 15-point advantage. Every time the Nuggets made a run, Oklahoma City had an answer — until the final minutes.

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    "We weren't having the same pace as we were earlier," Horford said. "They really locked down defensively and made it tough for us."

    Porter sparked a 13-4 run to get Denver within 70-64 late in third quarter, but Jackson's 3-pointer got the lead back to 12.

    The Nuggets made a big push in the fourth with Jokic on the bench, scoring seven straight to cut the deficit to three. Denver had a chance to tie or take the lead, but turned it over and Oklahoma City scored the next six to go ahead 89-81 with 4:28 left.

    The Nuggets scored the next 12 points, taking their first lead on Jokic's jumper in the lane with 1:21 left. Will Barton hit a 3-pointer and Denver sealed it at the line.

    "The team who wants it more is probably going to win the game," Jokic said. "Will made a big 3, I made a mid-range. We made the plays at the end."

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    Thunder: G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed his second straight game with a knee injury. He has missed four of the last six. ... Oklahoma City is 7-7 on the road.

    Nuggets: Guards Gary Harris (adductor strain) and P.J. Dozier (hamstring) will be on the upcoming four-game road trip that starts in Boston on Tuesday. Both have missed multiple games with their injuries. ... Denver did not attempt a free throw in the first half.

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    HEAVE, OH!

    The Nuggets were gifted three points at the end of the third quarter thanks to Hamidou Diallo. After Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left in the period Murray, launched an off-balance shot from near half court. It banked off the glass and Diallo tipped it as it bounced on the rim and was called for basket interference.

    "Hami I'm sure would love that play back," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. "I challenged a play earlier in the game and that is a play had I had my challenge I would've challenged it."

    Malone wasn't apologizing for the gift.

    "Sometimes you need the breaks to go your way and that was definitely one that went in our favor," he said.


    Thunder: Host the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night.

    Nuggets: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.


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      PHOTO: AP
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