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Jan 30, 2024 11:50 pm

Nuggets roll into final regular-season date with Thunder

The Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic just keeps on doing what he does.

The Nuggets’ veteran star ranks in the top 15 in NBA in scoring, averaging 26.3 points per game, while he sits in the top five in rebounds (12.1 per game) and assists (9.0 per game).

Oklahoma City Thunder rookie big man Chet Holmgren, meanwhile, is adjusting to the grind of the NBA schedule, and his scoring production has taken a dip of late.

Jokic’s Nuggets and Holmgren’s Thunder square off in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

Jokic, though, is questionable with lower back pain after his 25-point, 16-rebound, 12-assist performance in Monday’s win over Milwaukee.

Jokic has missed just one game this season — Denver’s win over the Clippers on Nov. 27.

Denver and Oklahoma City are neck-and-neck behind Minnesota near the top of the Western Conference. The Thunder are coming off a 107-101 home loss to the Timberwolves that knocked them from the top spot in the conference.

Holmgren tied his season low with four points and was just 2-for-9 from the floor in Monday’s loss.

Over the last five games, Holmgren is averaging 11.6 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting.

In the first 42 games of the season, the rookie was averaging 17.3 points and shooting 54.2 percent.

“It’s hard getting adjusted to,” Oklahoma City teammate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said of the grind of the NBA schedule. “Now, with that being said, the NBA doesn’t care. Your opponents don’t care. Nobody cares. You’ve got to fight through it and get it done.”

Holmgren is averaging 20.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in three meetings with the Nuggets this season.

The Thunder have plenty of young players who are in a position they’ve never been in before in their NBA careers — battling for one of the top seeds in the playoffs.

“We’re a team full of no excuses,” Kenrich Williams said after Monday’s loss. “We have no excuses to make as a team. Every night we’ve just got to come out and perform no matter how tired we are or how many games we’ve played. It’s a part of the league. It’s a part of growing into the league as a young team.”

Wednesday’s game is the fourth and final regular-season meeting between the teams this season. After Denver captured the first meeting, Oklahoma City has won the last two.

The Nuggets’ 113-107 win over Milwaukee on Monday was the 400th victory of coach Michael Malone’s Nuggets tenure.

Malone has the fourth-most wins with his current team among NBA head coaches, behind only San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and Golden State’s Steve Kerr.

“It speaks to tremendous players,” Malone said. “I mean, how lucky am I to be a coach who gets to coach Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., KCP (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), Aaron Gordon? And not just the guys who are here now, but all along the way.”

Jokic, of course, is at the center of that.

His numbers have been strong against Oklahoma City this season as he is averaging 23.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists in three games.

–Field Level Media

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