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Jokic triple as Nuggets down Mavs, Sixers survive scare

Nikola Jokic bagged his 21st triple-double of the season as the Denver Nuggets maintained their grip on top spot in the NBA’s Western Conference Wednesday night in the US with a 118-109 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Jokic finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists to set up a third straight win for Denver, who now lead the standings by five games with 41 wins and 18 defeats.

The Mavericks were without new signing Kyrie Irving, who watched from the sidelines as Luka Doncic finished with 37 points in vain at Denver’s Ball Arena.

Irving was ruled out of what would have been only his second game for Dallas after complaining of lower back tightness.

Without the offensive firepower of Irving, Dallas struggled to get in the game.

Doncic was the only Mavs starter to finish in double digits -– a stark contrast to Denver, who saw all of their starters make double figures.

Michael Porter backed Jokic with 22 points, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 14. Jeff Green added 24 off the bench.

Tatum back in style 

Elsewhere, Jayson Tatum returned in style with 38 points as Boston trounced Detroit 127-109.

Tatum, who missed Tuesday’s loss to Milwaukee, shot 15-of-24 from the field including six from three-point range.

The Eastern Conference leaders improved to 42-17 with the victory and once more demonstrated their depth, with Malcolm Brogdon adding 25 off the bench.

Bojan Bogdanovic (28 points) led the Pistons scoring.

The win means Boston will hold No.1 seeding in the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break later this week.

“All things considered, with everything we went through this season as a team — coaching changes, guys getting injured and missing games — overall it’s been a hell of a start,” said Tatum.

In Philadelphia, Joel Embiid’s 29-point haul helped the 76ers claim a 118-112 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game that had threatened to go badly wrong for the Sixers during a lopsided second-half.

The Sixers had looked to be cruising to a comfortable win after dominating the first half to lead 63-38 at half-time.

But Donovan Mitchell caught fire for Cleveland after the break with 25 second-half points and a game that looked set for a Sixers blowout suddenly became a contest.

The Sixers led by 28 points in the third quarter but Cleveland’s fightback saw that lead shrink to just four points with less than two minutes remaining.

Bridges shines in Brooklyn

Philadelphia however did just enough to hold on for the win, despite being outscored 42-31 in the final quarter.

“We played great in the first half, probably couldn’t have played any better,” said Sixers coach Doc Rivers, adding that the looming mid-season All-Star break might have explained his team’s limp second half display.

“Second half I think the All Star break started,” Rivers said.

“I loved how we came out with the intensity, but we just couldn’t sustain it… Tonight was almost a case of finding a way not to win right at the end.

“But we’ll take the win.”

In Brooklyn, Mikal Bridges erupted for a career-high 45 points to help the Nets sink the Miami Heat 116-105.

Bridges, who joined Brooklyn from Phoenix as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Durant to the Suns, went 17-for-24 from the field.

“My team-mates just kept finding me,” Bridges said.

“They felt like I had it going and just kept giving me the ball. They gave me the confidence to go out there and be aggressive.

“But I go out there to win, so it’s an empty stat for me if we lose. I’m just happy we got the dub.”

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