MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets are off to the best start in franchise history.
Only took until the last half of the fourth quarter for them to look the part Monday night.
Jokic scored 24 points and made a go-ahead hook shot with 28.9 seconds left, and the Nuggets overcame a 25-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 95-92.
The Nuggets rallied hard in the final 4 1/2 minutes, and Will Barton‘s 3-pointer with 43.9 seconds remaining gave the Nuggets their first lead of the game at 91-89.
After a 3-pointer from Memphis’ Justin Holiday, Jokic’s basket from 7 feet out put Denver ahead to stay.
“We just didn’t give up,” Jokic said, adding: “That says something about the team. We don’t want to quit. We were fighting.”
Malik Beasley keyed the fourth-quarter burst, scoring 13 of his 18 points in the final period. Beasley was critical as the Nuggets erased a 13-point deficit with a 19-4 burst.
He scored seven points in that stretch and handed out the assist on Barton’s basket that completed the rally, giving the Nuggets their first lead of the game.
The 25-point margin was the largest of the season that Denver has overcome. The Nuggets trailed 77-60 entering the fourth, – the 17-point deficit translating to the second-largest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history.
The atmosphere was somewhat somber in the Memphis locker room, not only because of the loss, but because of the uncertainty of Gasol’s and Conley’s future in Memphis, where the two players have spent their entire careers. The Grizzlies revealed last week they would entertain trade offers for the two, the longest-tenured teammates in the NBA.
Memphis heads out on a three-game road trip, not returning home until Feb. 5. While still two days before the trade deadline, some wondered if this could be the last home appearance for one or both of them.
“It’s been an awkward week for sure,” Conley said. “It’s been feeling like it’s our eulogy. People giving us hugs and asking for one last autograph, all that stuff. And I’m thinking: `I’m not gone. I’m still here.”‘