DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets handles the ball during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 14, 2018 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
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Nuggets Defeat Thunder

In a matchup that pitted two of the Western Conference’s top three teams, the Denver Nuggets bested the Oklahoma City Thunder 109-98 Friday Night at Pepsi Center.

Denver trailed by four out of the gate as Thunder big man Steven Adams scored his team’s first six points but used a 14-4 run during a 2:48 stretch of the first quarter to take an eight-point lead and seize control of the game.

Both Adams and Nuggets' center, Nikola Jokic, started the game aggressive on the offensive. Adams scored eight of OKC’s first 10 points amid a first quarter, during which he put up 17 points and grabbed five rebounds, all on the offensive glass. Jokic filled out the stat sheet with 12 points, three rebounds and as many assists during the game’s first 12 minutes.

The Nuggets (19-9) led by seven after one and eight at the break and the Thunder were only able to trim that deficit by one as Denver took an 82-76 lead into the fourth quarter. OKC cut its deficit down to three on a bucket from Paul George with 3:20 go to but never got any closer as timely jumpers from Denver’s Monte Morris (2:35) and Jamal Murray (56.4) thwarted any chance of a Thunder comeback down the stretch.

“It’s another testament to our team’s toughness, resilience, durability, moxy, grity, whatever else you want to call it,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “To be down three starters and to play against one of the better teams in the NBA, and do it with defense and to hold them to 12-second chance points, five fastbreak points. Lots of guys stepped up tonight.”

Jokić led the way for the Nuggets, recording a double-double comprised of a team-high 24 points on 8-for-16 shooting, including two 3-pointers, and 15 rebounds to go along with nine assists in 36 minutes.

Murray scored 19 while third-year Denver forward Juancho Hernangómez continued his solid play as a starter, netting 16 points. Torrey Craig scored a career-high 15 points, including 11 in the first when he sank all three of his 3-point attempts. Morris added 14 points in addition to six assists and Trey Lyles added nine points.

“It’s amazing how deep this team is,” Craig said. “For the amount of guys that went out and for guys to step up and still compete and win games, close games, it speaks volumes for this team.”

Newly-acquired veteran guard Nick Young made his presence felt in his first action since being signed earlier in the week. Young scored six points, both on 3-pointers, one of which extended the Nuggets’ lead to nine at 93-84 with 7:30 to go.

“It felt good to see the ball go in the hole and just being out there,” Young said. “I went from watching cartoons with the family, to hitting 3s in a game.”

The Nuggets showed why they’re one of the league’s best defensive teams, limiting former league MVP Russell Westbrook to 13 points on 5 of 15 shooting, well below his season average of 22.

Paul George was the top scorer for the Thunder (17-10) with a game-high 32 points while Adams finished with 26 Points and 14 Rebounds. Jerami Grant had 13 and Dennis Schroder had 11 in a losing effort.

The Nuggets shot 50.6 percent from the field and sank 14 of 15 free-throw attempts while dishing out 29 assists compared to OKC’s 14.

The Nuggets host the Toronto Raptors Sunday at 6 p.m. MST. That game will be broadcasted live on Altitude TV and streamed on AltitudeNOW.

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