DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored 30 points, Jamal Murray hit a clutch 3-pointer late — his only one of the game — and the Denver Nuggets received a boost to their playoff hopes by holding off the Indiana Pacers 107-104 on Tuesday night.
Denver pulled within a half-game of New Orleans for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
What’s more, the Nuggets now trail Minnesota by a game for the seventh spot and have two of their final four games against the Timberwolves.
Wilson Chandler donned a mask to protect a broken nose and struggled early with his shot, going 0 for 5 in the first half. Chandler finally found his touch in the third. He hit three 3-pointers to spark a run to open some breathing room.
Victor Oladipo had 25 points for the Pacers, who had their five-game winning streak snapped, but remain fifth in the Eastern Conference. Oladipo scored a career-high 47 points against the Nuggets on Dec. 10.
Seeing their once double-digit lead trimmed to 91-89, the Nuggets got a lift from Murray, who made a 3-pointer from the corner with 3:37 left. He celebrated as he made his way back down the court.
Denver coach Michael Malone called this time of the year, with the season hanging in the balance, “immensely” fun.
“Somebody texted me, ‘You guys must be under a lot of pressure.’ For me, not really,” Malone said. “No one is really giving us a chance and writing us off. Let’s believe. Let’s have fun. Let’s embrace the moment in front of us.”
Pacers: F Bojan Bogdanovic was given a technical for arguing in the third quarter. … Indiana hasn’t won in Denver since Nov. 27, 2007.
Nuggets: G Gary Harris missed a ninth straight game with a strained right knee. … Denver was already in the bonus at 8:48 of the fourth quarter.
GIVE ‘EM A BREAK
Malone has called off a couple of practices and morning shoot-around sessions to give his players extra rest down the stretch.
“That’s the best thing for our team,” Malone said. “Give them rest physically as well as mentally so we can go into these games and hopefully give ourselves a chance to win.”
Oladipo had four steals against the Nuggets to give him at least one in 61 straight games. It’s the sixth-longest streak in NBA history.
His elevated play this season is a reason he’s among the favorites for the NBA’s most improved player award.
“He impacts the game in so many different ways,” Malone said. “That’s why I think he’s the most improved.”
Pacers: Host Golden State on Thursday.
Nuggets: Wrap up a three-game homestand Thursday in a pivotal game against Minnesota.
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