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Jokic, Nuggets bump Blazers

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Nikola Jokic bagged his 13th triple-double of the season as the Denver Nuggets overcame a 44-point display from Damian Lillard to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers 122-113 on Tuesday.

Two-time National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Jokic finished with 36 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists as Denver extended their winning streak to seven games to move one game clear of Memphis at the top of the Western Conference.

It was the 17th 30-point triple-double of Jokic’s career, placing him in illustrious company alongside Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in seventh on the all-time rankings.

A high-scoring first half saw Denver take a 73-66 lead, with Lillard keeping Portland firmly in the hunt with 30 points in the opening two quarters.

But Denver’s defensive adjustments in the second half helped them take a firm grip on the contest as they stretched away in the fourth quarter — leading by as much as 20 points at one stage — to close out the win.

“It’s always tough and it’s always interesting against them,” Jokic said afterwards. “They’re a good team with a good coach and Lillard is playing amazing right now.”

“But I think in the second half we played really good defense… and that’s why we won the game.”

Jokic’s 36-point haul came from 13-of-14 shooting from the field, including a near-perfect display from the free-throw line.

The Serb was one of five Denver players in double figures — Michael Porter Jr. added 23 points and Jamal Murray 17.

Bruce Brown had 12 off the bench while Aaron Gordon added 11.

Portland talisman Lillard meanwhile made six-of-12 from three-point range and was a perfect 14-of-14 from the foul line in his 44-point tally.

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