Nikola Jokic had 30 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Boston Celtics 123-111 in an NBA conference leaders matchup that was delayed nearly 40 minutes because a powerful dunk bent one of the rims.
Jokic hit 10 of 13 shots from the field and all eight free throws in his second straight triple-double and ninth of the season. Bruce Brown added 21 points for the Nuggets, who shot 57 percent from the floor and made 17 of 30 3-pointers.
“He’s my MVP. He should be league MVP three times in a row,” Brown said of Jokic. “He does everything for us. Without Jok, I don’t know where we would be.”
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Denver won for the 10th time in 12 games, pulled off a six-game skid against Boston and opened a one-game lead in the Western Conference.
The Nuggets led by no less than 18 and waited a long delay with 6:43 to go as a crew struggled to level the rim after a dunk from Boston’s Robert Williams III. It took six workers, two ladders, a level, phone calls and eventually a crew member to remove the panel ledge before it was repaired.
“I didn’t know I did it until my teammates started blaming me,” Williams said. “I’ve never done this before.”
The players were given a brief warm-up before play resumed, and then the Nuggets retired.
“Man, that was crazy,” Denver guard Bones Hyland said of the delay. “I’ve never been in a game with it before. We just tried to stay loose and finish the game.”
Jaylen Brown scored 30 points and Jayson Tatum got off to a slow start to add 25 for Boston, which shot just 9 of 33 from three-pointers in Game 1 of a four-game road trip.
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Celtics, whose lead in the East was reduced to a game and a half.
Bruce Brown started in place of Jamal Murray (sore knee) and made 4 of 6 on three-pointers.
It was a familiar theme for the Nuggets, who entered as the NBA’s best 3-point shooting team. They are 34 of 58 from long range in the last two games.
This one was billed as a match between top NBA MVP contenders Jokic and Tatum. And the crowd noticed.
A large number of Celtics fans started chanting “MVP! MVP!” when Tatum went to the foul line late in the second quarter. Nuggets fans returned the favor moments later with their own MVP chant for Jokic when he went on the line.
In the end, Jokic showed that it would be difficult to snatch the trophy from him.
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