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Porter scores 22 points, Nuggets use dominant 3rd quarter to beat Hornets

Denver Nuggets Michael Porter Jr. (1) - The Canadian Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Porter Jr. scored 22 points, Nikola Jokic had 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and the Denver Nuggets held the Charlotte Hornets without a field goal for more than 11 minutes in the third quarter in a 102-95 victory Saturday night.

Jamal Murray added 20 points and 12 rebounds for Denver, which opened the second half on a 25-1 run and outscored the Hornets 30-9 in the third quarter.

The Nuggets kept the Hornets from scoring a field goal on 17 straight possessions to open the second half. Charlotte didn't score from the field until Miles Bridges made a driving layup with 58 seconds left in the third.

“That's one of the more impressive runs that I can remember in my nine years in Denver,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. "We chart kills, and you get a kill if you get three stops in a row. To get 17 straight stops is incredible. ... That changed the game obviously. We came out as the aggressor and got stops."

Murray said the Nuggets knew what was happening at the time and were hoping to go the entire quarter without allowing a field goal.

“It was a great quarter," Murray said. “That's one we can look back on and if we ever had a bad quarter we can compare it to that one, because that's where we want to be.”

Hornets coach Steve Clifford said he liked his team's ball movement in the first half, but said there was none of it in the third.

“We went down playing iso(lation), the ball stayed on one side of the floor," Clifford said. “And they’re too good and too disciplined to get good shots that way.”

Bridges scored 22 points and P.J. Washington had 20 to lead injury-riddled Charlotte, which has lost seven straight.

Charlotte ruled out Terry Rozier because of a knee injury before the game and lost No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller to a sprained ankle in the second quarter when he got stepped on by Peyton Watson.

Miller hobbled to the locker room and did not return, just the latest in a long line of injuries. Along with Rozier and Miller, two other starters — LaMelo Ball and Mark Williams — also have been out with injuries.

That allowed rookie Nick Smith Jr. to get more playing time, and the rookie responded with five 3-pointers for a career-high 19 points.

“I just wanted to keep my rhythm and just keep taking the open ones,” Smith said. "Just having movement on offense, that’s my biggest thing. My teammates found me and I was able to knock down some shots.”

The Hornets led 60-54 after the half, but the Nuggets took control by opening the second half on a 15-0 tear behind Jokic, Murray and Aaron Gordon, who had 14 points. The Nuggets held the Hornets to 2-of-22 shooting in the third quarter to build an 18-point lead.

The Hornets would rally within three late behind Smith, who got hot from long distance.

But Jokic, playing with five fouls, scored on a spin move to give the Nuggets a 99-94 lead with about two minutes left. Jokic added two free throws and the Hornets had a costly 5-second violation on an inbounds play under their own basket with 43 seconds left.

Jokic fouled out a few seconds later, but the Denver hung on.

Cody Martin saw his first action for the Hornets since Jan. 14. Martin had only played in seven games since the start of the 2022-23 season and hadn’t played at all this season. He had six points in 17 minutes but appeared to move well on the floor.


Nuggets: At Golden State on Monday.

Hornets: At Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.