Nikola Jokic, Nuggets tip off second half vs. Grizzlies


The Denver Nuggets return to action for the first time since the NBA All-Star break on Friday, traveling to Memphis, Tenn. , to face a Memphis Grizzlies team as close to full strength it has been on the season. . . Playing its first game in eight days, Denver is looking to conclude a five-game road swing that began on Feb. 27 a perfect 5-0. The Nuggets won the fourth of their consecutive road games on March 4, 113-103 at Indiana, behind three 20-point-plus efforts. . . Among them was Nikola Jokic, who flirted with a triple-double at 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Jokic played his way into a starting spot at last weekends All-Star Game with averages of 27. 1 points, 11 rebounds and 8. 6 assists per game. . . I am playing the way Ive played since I was a kid, and Im just lucky to have coaches who gave me freedom in the past, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone gave me the freedom right now, Jokic said in his post-All-Star Game press conference of his ability to make an impact in multiple phases of the game from the center position. . . This season marked Jokics third straight as an All-Star, and the Denver post presence is a contender for the 2020-21 Most Valuable Player Award. . . Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins campaigned for Grizzlies second-year guard Ja Morant to receive an All-Star roster spot. Although Morant did not land his first All-Star selection, the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year leads a Memphis squad in contention for a playoff berth with 19. 8 points and 7. 8 assists per game. . . Morant missed eight games early in the campaign due to an ankle injury. Since his return on Jan. 16, the Grizzlies are two games over . 500 — including a 127-112 defeat of Washington on Wednesday in their first game back from the break. . . Morant was one of two Grizzlies with double-doubles in the win, scoring 21 points and dishing 10 assists. Jonas Valanciunas scored 29 points and grabbed 20 rebounds. . . Valanciunas likely draws the assignment opposite Jokic on Friday, as Memphis seeks back-to-back big defensive performances. On Wednesday against Washington, it was guard Dillon Brooks with the honors against NBA-leading scorer Bradley Beal. . . Brooks helped limit Beal to 21 points on 6-of-22 shooting from the floor. . . I just rise to the occasion and take on the challenge and see if he can last a full 48 minutes with a lot of physicality, Brooks said in his postgame press conference. . . With Valanciunas on Jokic on the interior, Brooks and the Grizzlies perimeter defenders will try to contain Jamal Murray. The Denver guard comes into Fridays matchup averaging 21. 8 points per game and has scored at least 23 points in every game since Feb. 14. . . On Feb. 19, Murray scored a career-high 50 points against Cleveland. . . Limiting Denver, the NBAs fourth-highest scoring offense at 115. 9 points per game, is not a one- or two-man task. Memphis will be able to go deeper into its rotation than it has much of the season. . . Ravaged by injury much of the season, the Grizzlies welcomed back Justise Winslow from a hip injury on Feb. 20. Brandon Clarke, who missed five games in February due to injuries, grabbed 10 rebounds on Wednesday.

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