Porter scores career-high 39 points, Nuggets beat Rockets

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DENVER – Michael Porter Jr. scored a career-high 39 points, Nikola Jokic had 24 points and the Denver Nuggets beat the undermanned Houston Rockets 129-116 on Saturday night.

P.J. Dozier started at guard in place of the injured Will Barton and added a career-high 23 points for the Nuggets. They are 13-3 in their last 16 games while dealing with a wave of backcourt injuries.

“I was really pleased offensively,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We came from a game last night where the ball wasn’t moving a whole lot (118-97 loss at Golden State). It was kind of being held and we didn’t make the defense work for us. Tonight, we had 36 assists — that’s a great number for us. Getting one win in this league is hard. I’ve said that before and I’m happy we got it.”

The Rockets, too, have been besieged by injuries and roster upheaval and only seven players logged playing time against the Nuggets. D.J. Wilson led Houston with 25 points, Kelly Olynyk had 21 and Kenyon Martin Jr. 18.

Denver swept the three-game season series. “It’s definitely tough when you’ve got nobody coming in to save you,” Olynyk said of the Rockets' seven-man rotation. “You’re basically rotating one guy in the second half there. It’s nice because you can get in a rhythm and for a young guy you don’t have to look over your shoulder at all. But you’re going to have to figure it out and make plays and all that. It’s definitely good experience for these young guys.”

The Nuggets asserted themselves from the outset with Dozier and Porter setting the tone early by hitting 3-pointers in the opening minutes. Porter finished with eight.

A length-of-the-court pass from Jokic to Dozier resulted in a running dunk in the last second of the second quarter that gave the Nuggets a 72-50 halftime lead.

Houston played the Nuggets evenly through the third quarter, but still trailed 102-82 heading into the final period. The Rockets could make little headway into the deficit the rest of the way as the Nuggets began substituting freely midway through the final quarter. BIG CATCH