Jokic shines as Nuggets polish off Mavericks

Los Angeles: Nikola Jokic made a clutch go-ahead layup with eight seconds left and finished with 33 points as the Denver Nuggets out-duelled Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks 107-106 on Wednesday.
Jokic also had seven assists while American Jerami Grant scored 15 points and Canada’s Jamal Murray chipped in 14 in the matchup of two of the top young teams in the NBA’s Western Conference.
“We lost one at home against them before. It was long time ago but we wanted to get this game back. We needed a lot of focus and a lot of energy because it is the last game of our road trip,” said Serbia’s Jokic.
Slovenia’s Doncic flirted with a triple double, finishing with 27 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Dwight Powell, of Canada, scored 16, Tim Hardaway added 15, Seth Curry 14 and German forward Maxi Kleber had 13 for the Mavericks.
Dallas played its fifth straight game without injured starter Kristaps Porzingis, who has a knee injury. The Nuggets were without two starters, guard Will Barton (personal reasons) and Paul Millsap (knee).
Dorian Finney-Smith nailed a three pointer and Hardaway hit a basket to give Dallas a 106-101 lead late in the fourth.
Jokic then made a shot in the lane and Grant drained two free throws to make it 106-105 with 87 seconds remaining.
Denver got the ball back with 23 seconds left. Jokic drove for a layup with eight seconds left.
The Mavericks called a timeout, but the Nuggets trapped Doncic to force him to pass, and the defence prevented Dallas from getting a shot off before the final buzzer.
Jokic said they won because they were able to keep the ball out of Doncic’s hands at the end of the game.
“He had 27 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists but we made it a little harder for him, especially at the end,” said Jokic. “We double teammed him and made someone else make a play.
“He passed to the corner and they lost the ball. It was great defence by us.”
Also, Serge Ibaka sank a pair of free throws with five seconds left in overtime to lift the shorthanded Toronto Raptors to a 112-110 victory against the Charlotte Hornets.
Ibaka, of Congo, and Terence Davis each tallied 23 points for the Raptors, who avoided losses on consecutive nights.
OG Anunoby finished with 19 points, Kyle Lowry had 15 points, and Patrick McCaw scored 13 in the win.
In regulation, Lowry’s layup with 17 seconds left pushed the Raptors ahead 100-99, which was countered by a Terry Rozier free throw to force the extra session.
At the end of overtime, Charlotte’s Rozier missed a potential winning three-point shot.
In Indianapolis, Jimmy Butler returned from a one game absence due to a back problem to finish with 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the Miami Heat’s 122-108 win over the host Indiana Pacers.
In the third quarter American Butler exchanged bumps and words with Indiana’s T J Warren, who was ejected.
Butler blasts Warren
Butler said after the game he can’t wait until he faces Warren again and even demonstrated how he already has the March 20th game circled on his calendar.
“He’s not even in my league. I am going to tear him up every time we play,” Butler said.
Butler tweeted a screen shot of the NBA schedule and circled the game with the comment, “Don’t be mad you can’t guard me. We will see what you about in March.” — AFP