DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 21 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists before sitting out the fourth quarter and the Denver Nuggets won their 12th straight home game, routing the weary and short-handed Phoenix Suns 126-97 on Wednesday night.
Bones Hyland added 21 points and Jamal Murray had 16 to help the Nuggets win for the 14th time in 17 games. They reached the season's halfway point tied with Memphis for the Western Conference lead.
A night after winning at Golden State despite missing four starters and six rotation players, the Suns ran out of gas playing a back-to-back at altitude while dressing 10 players.
Phoenix started the second quarter with an 8-second violation and things only got worse. Hyland hit all four of his 3s in the period, Jokic had a rebound and put-back using only one hand and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit his fourth 3 in the half without a miss as Denver built a 23-point lead.
Jokic had nine points and nine rebounds in the third quarter as the lead stretched to 31 points. The two-time reigning MVP rested in the fourth instead of pursuing his 12th triple-double of the season against the overwhelmed Suns.
Guard Saben Lee, a Phoenix area product, signed a 10-day contract before the game and scored eight points.
“It’s good to have another body down there,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “When I look down there and see more coaches than players, I’m like ... this is ... yeah, I’ll stop there.”
Williams was unhappy playing consecutive nights in San Francisco and Denver. It involved moving ahead one time zone, dealing with the lengthy drive from Denver's airport to downtown and adjusting to the mile-high altitude.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone called it “the toughest back-to-back in the business.”
At least ESPN picked up the game and moved the tipoff back an hour.
“When you fly two hours and have to drive 30-40 minutes, that's a lot on any team,” Williams said.
Suns: Their 22 losses are four more than all of last season. ... Williams had no update on Paul's injury. ... Williams said Johnson has begun playing “a little bit of 1-on-1." ... Jock Landale stayed in after being bloodied on Hyland's hit to the face in the third quarter.
Nuggets: Jokic made 10 of 15 shots, marking the 31st straight game he's shot 50% or better from the field. ... Denver scored at least 120 points for the fourth straight game and is 19-1 when scoring that many this season. ... Denver, which is 18-3 at home, last won 12 straight at Ball Arena in the 2018-19 season.
Suns: At Minnesota on Friday night.
Nuggets: At the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
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Mike Cranston, The Associated Press