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Nuggets Best Hornets, Win Fifth In A Row

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić was aggressive on offense early and often, scoring 16 of his season-best 39 in the first half in a 123-110 win in a Saturday matinee matchup against the Charlotte Hornets.

Jokić, who attempted a career-high 29 field-goal attempt, recorded his 23rd double-double of the season. He grabbed 12 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass, to go along with six assists and three steals in 34 minutes to help the Nuggets capture their fifth-straight victory and 10th in a row at Pepsi Center. The win also avenged a six-point loss suffered at the hands of Hornets in the Queen City on Dec. 7 as the two teams end season series in a 1-1 split.

“Tonight, I feel like he could’ve had 50 points,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of Jokic. “He missed a lot of chippies and bunnies around the basket, but 39 points, impacts the game in every way possible. And I think he understands for us to be the team that we all want to be, he has to be a big part of that and he has to be aggressive.”

In a contest that saw nine ties and 12 lead changes in the first 36 minutes, the Nuggets (26-11) seized control of the game early in the fourth quarter, taking a double-digit lead for the first time on a dunk from big man Mason Plumlee with 11:16 remaining.

Nuggets shooting guard, Gary Harris, had his finest performance since returning from an injury that kept him out nearly all of December on New Year’s Day. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Michigan State product scored 17 points on 7 of 15 shooting while adding six rebounds and five assists in 26 minutes of +23 basketball of the bench.

“I feel good,” Harris said. “I’m still taking it one day at a time and it’s always good to get the win.”

Veteran Paul Millsap had 18 points, six rebounds a game-high four steals. Torrey Craig also finished in double-figures in scoring with 12 points.

All-star point guard Kemba Walker led the Hornets (18-19) with 20 points while Malik Monk, Bismack Biyombo and Marvin Williams had 16 apiece. Nicolas Batum (11) and Willy Hernangómez (10), and Devonte Graham (10) rounded out the top scorers for Charlotte.

Denver dished out 30 assists, gathered 10 steals and turn the ball over just eight times compared to the Hornets’ 17.

“We’re just building off last year,” Malone said. “We had the fourth-best home record in the league last year, 31 home wins. That’s generated a lot of interest and excitement in the city and the fans and the sellouts and the crowds have been phenomenal. Every time we take the floor at home, we expect to win.”

The Nuggets face the Houston Rockets on the road Monday at 6 p.m. MST. That game will be broadcasted live on Altitude TV and streamed on AltitudeNOW.

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