Nikola Jokic just set the bar high among his teammates for pain tolerance.
The reigning NBA MVP had 11 points and 16 rebounds on a bruised right knee, Will Barton added 17 points and the Denver Nuggets routed the Dallas Mavericks 106-75 on Friday night.
“It shows we can’t sit out for no bruised toe or anything,” cracked Nuggets forward Jeff Green. “That’s our leader. He goes out there and sets an example. If he was in any pain or discomfort, he played through it.”
Jokic was a game-time decision after hurting his knee Tuesday in Utah. He was on the court well before tip-off and nailing jumper after jumper.
It was a sign of things to come as he helped the Nuggets snap a two-game skid. Jokic was an efficient 5 of 9 from the floor. He also had eight assists. Jokic’s night was done early with the Nuggets comfortably up by 31 points heading into the fourth quarter.
“If there’s a chance for me to play, I’m going to play,” Jokic said. “I didn’t feel any weakness.”
Luka Doncic scored 16 for the Mavericks, who were playing for a second straight night after beating San Antonio at home Thursday. Doncic finished 5 for 18 from the floor in part due to all the different looks he saw and the defensive play of Aaron Gordon.
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“Let’s not allow Luka to get into a rhythm and then try to put a fire out. Let’s try to put it out right away,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone explained. “So the fact that (Gordon) embraces that and wants that, I think is tremendous.”
Leading 64-50 early in the third, the Nuggets went on an 11-0 run — aided by 3-pointers from Barton, Gordon and Jokic — to take control. They outscored Dallas 33-12 in the third quarter.
The Mavs shot just 29.5% from the floor. The last time Denver held an opponent under 30% was against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 27, 2009.
“When you have games like this, no matter how you look at it, it’s just bad,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “We should have been better.”
Doncic felt the same way.
“We have to learn from this,” he said.
The Nuggets dominated down low, outscoring Dallas by a 50-22 margin in the paint. They shot 51.8% from the floor on a night when five players scored in double figures.
Although Jokic’s knee appeared just fine, his nose may be sore. The do-it-all big man absorbed a hit from Dwight Powell and fell to the floor. Jokic went to the bench for a towel to dab at his nose and was right back.
Over his career, Jokic has proven incredibly durable. He’s played in every game the past two seasons.
“I feel like I’m his defense attorney at times because it’s just the facts and I don’t think Nikola truly gets the credit of how great of a player he is,” Malone said. “The guy’s incredible.”
Mavericks: G Tim Hardaway Jr. was assessed a flagrant-1 in the second quarter when his elbow caught Nuggets PG Facundo Campazzo in the face.
Nuggets: Wearing neon green sneakers, G Monte Morris had eight points. ... Jokic drew a technical for arguing with officials late in the second quarter. ... One of the loudest roars of the night was when Bol Bol entered in the fourth. He scored four points. ... Jeff Green had 14 points. ... Barton added six assists. ... Denver led by as many as 35 points.
Dallas forward/center Kristaps Porzingis missed a second straight game with lower back tightness.
“We just want him to be right,” Kidd said. “If he’s not right, he can’t play.”
FIRST & FOREMOST
The Mavericks have been outscored in the first quarter in all five games this season, including 29-21 on Friday.
“If we were judged on first quarters, we wouldn’t be that good,” said Kidd, whose team falls to 3-2.
Mavericks: Host Sacramento on Sunday.
Nuggets: Begin a three-game road stretch Saturday in Minnesota.