Red-hot Porter pushes Nuggets past Pacers, Heat beat Raptors
Rookie Michael Porter Jr. put on a shooting clinic on Thursday, scoring a career-high 25 points to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 124-116 NBA victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Porter came off the bench and connected on 11 of 12 shots from the field — a 91.7 percent success rate — as the Nuggets shook off a slow start and rebounded from a New Year’s Eve loss to the Houston Rockets.
“I felt really comfortable out there,” Porter said. “It’s amazing to start the year like this. It’s an amazing feeling and I have my teammates and coaches to thank.”
The Pacers raced to a 14-point lead with 5:23 remaining in the first quarter, with the Nuggets’ efforts to get back on terms hindered by foul trouble for Nikola Jokic.
Denver wouldn’t take the lead until Gary Harris drained a three-pointer with 9:16 left in the third to make it 73-72.
Porter poured in 10 points in the third quarter and Jokic added eight of his 22 points in the period as the Nuggets took a 92-88 lead into the final frame.
Denver opened the fourth on an 11-6 scoring run and the Pacers — led by Jeremy Lamb’s 30 points — couldn’t recover.
Jokic — forced into three fouls in just eight minutes in the first half — scored 20 points in just 16 minutes after the interval to help the Nuggets notch their third win in four games.
They stayed in second place in the Western Conference — half a game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers, who hosted the Detroit Pistons later Thursday.
“This was a really good win for us,” said Nuggets coach Mike Malone, noting that the Pacers were 15-3 on their home floor going into the contest. “I like how we responded after that tough loss in Houston.”
The Miami Heat launched 2020 with a dominant defensive performance, holding the reigning champion Toronto Raptors to 31.5 percent shooting in an 84-76 victory.
Bam Adebayo led Miami with 15 points and 14 rebounds and the Heat out-scored the Raptors 21-16 in the fourth quarter to pull away in a close contest, improving their league-best home record to 16-1.
The Raptors, still missing injured Spanish big man Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam, were led by the 19 points and 10 rebounds of center Serge Ibaka.
– Jazz edge Bulls –
Utah won a close one in Chicago, where the Jazz’s two-time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert came up big in the waning seconds.
The French center forced a miss from Chicago’s Zach LaVine with the Jazz up 100-98 and less than 25 seconds remaining.
Utah corralled the rebound and Donovan Mitchell made two free throws to give the Jazz a four-point lead.
Gobert blocked another LaVine attempt with 7.6 seconds left and the Jazz emerged with the victory in a game that saw 13 lead changes.
“We knew that they were a very aggressive team, especially Zach, so I just had to do what I do and be there for my teammates,” said Gobert, who finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Bojan Bogdanovic, who led the Jazz with 19 points, said Gobert’s contribution was key.
“He’s huge every single game for just his presence in the paint,” Bogdanovic said. “It’s big. Whoever’s coming into the paint, he’s changing every single shot.”
Luka Doncic, who led all vote-getters in early All-Star game voting returns released Thursday, celebrated with 31 points in the Dallas Mavericks’ 123-111 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
The 20-year-old star scored 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Mavs handed the injury-depleted Nets their fourth straight defeat.