Jokić’s Late Bucket Lifts Nuggets Over Kings

Nikola Jokić’s tip-in off his own miss with .8 seconds lifted the Denver Nuggets to a 120-118 victory against the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night at Pepsi Center.

With the game tied and 15.5 seconds Jokić got the ball in the lane and pivoted toward the teeth of the defense. He managed to get an attempt up over a pair of defenders but wisely followed his shot, tapping in the ball to lift his team to its second-straight victory as it heads into the all-star break.

Sacramento had one more chance but could not knock down a prayer for the win at the buzzer.

Jokić recorded his 12th triple-double of the season, logging 20 points, 18 rebounds and 11 assists.

“To beat that team three times,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That’s great for this team.”

Isaiah Thomas became a household name for his play in the fourth quarter, but it was his play in third Wednesday night that brought the crowd to its feet.

The two-time all-star made his debut in a Denver Nuggets’ jersey after an 11-months hiatus as he recovered from a right-hip injury. He scored eight points in the final two minutes and change of the third to help his team overcome a 17-point deficit.

The 5-foot-9, 185-point guard entered the game for the first time with 3:12 to go in the first, but didn’t show glimpses of the form that made him a two-time all-star and former NBA MVP candidate until late in the third. First, he sank a triple with 2:16 to play in the quarter to put his team ahead. He added another with 1:04 to go and connected stepback jumper on the next possession.

“I was just happy to get it out the way,” Thomas said of his first game action in nearly a year. “It was a surreal moment for me because I been through so much. I’m just happy to play basketball again and do what I love to do and that’s going out there and competing and winning. I’m happy we got a win to, going into all-star break.”

Thomas finished with eight points on 3-for-6 shooting to go along with two assists in 13 minutes of action.

The Nuggets trailed by 11 at the break but that ground up quickly, taking a 93-91 lead into the fourth. Denver (39-18) wouldn’t be denied in the final 12 minutes, getting a huge 3-pointer from top of the key from Will Barton with 3:49 to take what looked like a commanding four-point advantage before things got interesting down the stretch.

Paul Millsap led the scoring charge for the Nuggets, recording a double-double comprised of 25 points and 13 rebounds in his just third game since returning to the lineup from injury.

Malik Beasley (21) and Monte Morris (10) also finished in double-figures in scoring.

Sacramento was led by Hield, who scored 25 points. Newly-acquired wing Harrison Barnes added 19 followed by Bogdan Bogdanovic (16), De’Aaron Fox (15) and Marvin Bagley (11) as it dropped to 30-27.

The Nuggets will travel to face the Dallas Mavericks Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m. MT. That game will be broadcasted live on Altitude TV and streamed on AltitudeNOW.

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