CHARLOTTE — Nuggets superstar center Nikola Jokic recorded his 19th triple-double of the season on Monday night as Denver slid past the Hornets 113-109 at Spectrum Center.
The reigning NBA MVP posted 26 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists for Denver (45-31), dropping a costly loss on a Charlotte squad (39-37) that had just won a vital road game in Brooklyn a night earlier.
Miles Bridges led Charlotte with 27 points and 11 rebounds while LaMelo Ball notched 22 points, six rebounds and 11 assists.
“I thought the two areas were transition defense and second-chance points — I think that’s what it boiled down to,” Hornets coach James Borrego said of the loss. “We have to correct that. When we rebound, we’re a pretty good team and we can beat anybody. We have a chance in two nights to correct that against New York, a big, physical team, and we have to be on the board. All five guys have to rebound and we have to take care of transition.”
The Nuggets led 97-84 lead with 11 minutes left in the game before the Hornets spent the next 10 minutes cutting the lead down to just two points. Terry Rozier — who had 12 points and eight assists — hit a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left to trim the Nuggets’ lead to 111-109. Unfortunately for Charlotte, that would be their final made shot of the night.
Jokic made a pair of free throws on Denver’s following possession to make it a four-point game.
Aaron Gordon had 21 points and seven rebounds and Will Barton added 21 points and six rebounds. Denver outrebounded Charlotte by a total margin of 51-40. Jeff Green and Monte Morris each scored 14 points, with Morris adding nine assists.
Kelly Oubre Jr. and Isaiah Thomas each had 12 points off the Hornets’ bench, while Montrezl Harrell had nine points and five rebounds. Harrell was ejected in the third quarter of the game following a double-technical after an altercation in the paint with Denver’s Austin Rivers.
“I don’t even want to get started about the officiating tonight,” Ball told reporters after the game when asked about his teammate’s ejection.
The Hornets will now have a night off before starting a three-game road trip that starts in New York on Wednesday followed by trips to Philadelphia on Saturday and Miami next Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a tough road trip but we’re ready for it,” Bridges said. “We’re playing our best basketball right now, so I’m not really worried.”