Leader in the West, Denver was still able to count on the essential Nikola Jokic, author of a 13th triple-double this season, to beat Portland (122-113), the almighty Joel Embiid piling up 41 points to win Philadelphia at the Clippers (120-110), Tuesday in the NBA.
For now, the Nuggets are impervious to the pressure imposed by the Grizzlies of the leaping Ja Morant, maintaining a slightly favorable record in the standings (31-13 against 30-13).
NBA: schedule and results
At the slightest misstep, the positions could be exchanged, but Denver has Jokic, the MVP of the last two years, perfectly in the game to keep these laurels for a third year in a row and join the legendary Bill Russell (1960-63), Wilt Chamberlain (1965-68) and Larry Bird (1983-86) in this closed club.
The Serbian interior was close to perfection in attack (36 pts, 13/14, 9/10 free throws, 12 rebounds, 10 assists).
Only Chamberlain has managed, like him, a triple-double with at least 35 points and 90% success on shots, but the "
" is the first to have done so twice.
It's always difficult against them.
Damian Lillard is playing incredibly well right now.
But I think in the second half we defended very well.
That's why we won
, ”commented Jokic, who ended up calming the Portland star's ardor by countering him in the 4th quarter, when the Blazers fought back.
Lillard, in an offensive eruption for a week, nevertheless finished with 44 points (8 assists), his average peaking at 42.5 units over the last four games.
In the East, Milwaukee, winner of Toronto (130-122) took second place in the East, because at the same time Brooklyn lost to San Antonio (106-98).
Back-to-back, Bucks and Raptors nevertheless fought a good battle, which almost went wrong six minutes from the end, when Brook Lopez and Gary Trent Jr had a slightly too manly embrace, having resulted in a melee between several players.
Yet in verve, since he had just scored 15 of his 19 points in the third quarter, the pivot of the Bucks, a little too virulent, was excluded.
But that did not prevent his team from finishing strong, in the wake of Jrue Holiday, author of 37 points (7 assists).
With this best total of his season, the back shines in his role as interim boss in the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee).
Well supported by Grayson Allen (25 pts), he delivered a superb duel from a distance with Fred VanVleet, who put 39 pawns (9 rebounds, 6 assists) for the Raptors stuck in 11th place.
Brooklyn beaten again
In San Antonio, the Nets, already deprived of Kevin Durant (knee) for ten days, also had to do without Kyrie Irving, hit in the calf.
And the Spurs, carried by an excellent Keldon Johnson (36 pts, 11 rebounds) to take advantage of it (106-98) to stop their losing streak at five.
After this third consecutive setback, Brooklyn slipped to 4th position, also overtaken by Philadelphia (3rd).
The Sixers indeed climb a rank after their victory at the Clippers, the eighth in ten matches, which still bears the seal of Joel Embiid (9 rebounds, 2 blocks).
The pivot managed his 8th game with at least 40 points this season.
His score earned him chants of "
from the Los Angeles audience.
A trophy that he narrowly missed last year and for which he still asserts himself as a serious contender, with Luka Doncic and Jokic of course.
At his side, James Harden was very discreet (6 pts, 9 assists), but Tyrese Maxey (22 pts) and Tobias Harris (20 pts, 6 assists, 5 interceptions) struggled.
On the Clippers side, who remain 6th in the West, Kawhi Leonard did what he could (27 pts).