Nikola Jokic posted his seventh triple-double of the season in his return from a one-game suspension and the Denver Nuggets beat the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers 126-110 on Saturday night.
Jokic finished with 32 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.
The 76ers gave leading scorer Joel Embiid the night off, robbing fans of a Jokic-Embiid showdown but allowing their star to get a six-day midseason break before their next game Tuesday night against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
Jokic, the Nuggets’ leader in points, rebounds and assists, missed Denver’s 132-95 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Friday night when he was handed a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation in Utah earlier in the week.
Denver coach Michael Malone said he didn’t think Jokic would be any more fired up than usual for his return because “Nikola has a fire every night.”
“I don’t think he’s going to use it as any added motivation,” Malone said. “I think he’ll come back and look to help his team win another game at home against a quality team from the Eastern Conference.”
Jokic did just that, scoring 17 first-quarter points on his way to a 20-point, 12-rebound first-half as the Nuggets, who led wire to wire for the second straight night, took a 77-68 lead into the locker room.
Through three quarters, Jokic had 28 points, 17 boards and nine assists, and he got the triple-double shortly after re-entering the game midway through the fourth quarter with a half-court pass to Malik Beasley, whose dunk put Denver ahead 118-104.
Jokic sat out the final few minutes, leaving him two boards shy of the rare 30-20-10 triple-double.
JJ Redick scored 22 for Philadelphia and Corey Brewer added 20.
The Nuggets were hoping to have their opening night lineup back for the first time since the second game of their season, but guard Jamal Murray was scratched after rolling his left ankle Friday night.
This was only the second time he’d missed a game in his three-year career. Murray played all 82 games his rookie season and missed a game last year because of a concussion.
Over his last 10 games, Murray has averaged 17.9 points and 4.4 assists.
76ers: Jimmy Butler (sprained right wrist) and Wilson Chandler (left hamstring tightness) also sat out. That’s the same hamstring Chandler injured last fall. … With just three offensive rebounds in the first half, the 76ers managed a single second-chance point, three fewer than the Nuggets, who had just five offensive boards, three from Jokic.
Nuggets: Denver’s 77-point first half was a season high, besting the 74 the Nuggets scored against Dallas on Dec. 18. … The Nuggets outscored the 76ers by 20 points in the paint in the first half, 42-22. … Colorado Rockies SS Trevor Story missed the pregame free throw, failing to match ace Kyle Freeland, who swished his shot on opening night. Story’s free throw rattled around the rim before falling out. … New Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio got a standing ovation when he was shown on the big screen.
76ers: Visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
Nuggets: Visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.