Nikola Jokic scored 35 points as the Denver Nuggets defeated the Golden State Warriors 108-105 in a blockbuster showdown between the two NBA heavyweights on Wednesday.
A pulsating clash featuring the last two NBA champions lived up to the billing, with the Western Conference rivals going toe-to-toe in a game that saw the lead change hands nine times.
After trailing for almost the entire game at Denver’s Ball Arena, the Warriors edged in front heading into the fourth quarter after outscoring Denver 31-23 in the third.
But Denver recovered from a five-point deficit early in the fourth to snatch victory, clinching the win after Klay Thompson’s attempted game-tying buzzer-beater drifted wide.
The victory cemented Denver’s place at the top of the Western Conference, with the reigning NBA champions improving to 8-1.
“We don’t have the pressure of being a champion, we’re just trying to enjoy the moment,” Jokic told ESPN.
“I’m just trying to play the game the right way. And as long as we’re winning I think I’m doing a good job,” added Jokic, who also had 13 rebounds and five assists.
Reggie Jackson backed Jokic with 20 points while Michael Porter Jr. had 17.
Steph Curry’s 23 points led the scoring for the Warriors, the 2022 champions who fell to 6-3 after the loss.
Elsewhere, Joel Embiid posted 27 points with 10 rebounds and four assists as the Philadelphia 76ers secured a sixth straight win of the season with a 106-103 defeat of the Boston Celtics.
Embiid received offensive support from Tyrese Maxey, who finished with 25 points from 11-of-27 shooting, including three from beyond the arc.
The victory leaves Philadelphia in first place in the Eastern Conference on 6-1, with the Milwaukee Bucks second at 5-2.
Kristaps Porzingis led Boston’s scoring with 29 points while Derrick White finished with 19 points and Jayson Tatum 16.
Sixers head coach Nick Nurse paid tribute to the contributions of Maxey and Embiid.
“We’ve got an emerging young star in Tyrese, we’ve got an unbelievable player in Joel, and we’ve got a lot of talented athletes around them who give us some depth,” Nurse said.
In other games, Victor Wembanyama gave a low-key display in his Madison Square Garden debut, where the San Antonio Spurs succumbed 126-105 to the New York Knicks.
Wembanyama, the No.1 Draft pick from France, struggled to find his shooting range, making just 4-of-14 from the field before finishing with 14 points.
Jalen Brunson led the Knicks scorers with 25 points, while RJ Barrett had 24 and Julius Randle 23.
The Spurs loss marked the team’s fourth straight game where they have conceded 120 points or more, and came after Monday’s 152-111 mauling by the Indiana Pacers.
Asked what he had seen from his team in recent performances, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich replied: “What am I seeing? I’m seeing teams score 120 or 130 against us — that’s what I’m seeing.”
Clippers, Lakers stumble
Also in New York, James Harden was left looking for his first win since joining the Los Angeles Clippers after slumping to a 100-93 defeat to former club the Brooklyn Nets.
Harden was held to just 12 points by the Brooklyn defense. Paul George top-scored for the Clippers with 24 points but was unable to stop Los Angeles slipping to defeat. The Clippers fell to 3-4 for the season.
In Oklahoma City, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander poured in 43 points from 15-of-22 shooting as the Thunder rolled to a 128-120 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Caris LeVert led the Cleveland scorers with 29 points.
In Milwaukee, the Bucks edged past the Detroit Pistons 120-118 thanks to 34 points from new recruit Damian Lillard and 15 from Giannis Antetokounmpo. Seven of the Milwaukee line-up finished with double-digit points totals.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ dismal form on the road continued in Texas, with the Houston Rockets thrashing their visitors 128-94.
Rui Hachimura led the injury-hit Lakers scoring with 24 points, but Los Angeles were always chasing the game after being overrun 32-19 in the first quarter.
The Lakers — who have lost all five of their road games this season — went into Wednesday’s match missing the injured Anthony Davis, Jarred Vanderbilt, Gabe Vincent and Jaxson Hayes.
“It’s tough, we’re juggling different circumstances with guys being in and out of the line-up,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.
“But at the end of the day, no one’s gonna feel sorry for you, especially when you’re a Los Angeles Laker.”
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