Red-hot Porter pushes Nuggets past Pacers, Heat beat Raptors

Michael Porter Jr. #1 of the Denver Nuggets shoots the ball against the Indiana Pacers on January 2, 2020 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Copyright 2020 NBAE Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP

LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Rookie Michael Porter Jr. put on a shooting clinic on Thursday, scoring a career-high 25 points to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 124-116 NBA victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Porter came off the bench and connected on 11 of 12 shots from the field — a 91.7 percent success rate — as the Nuggets shook off a slow start and rebounded from a New Year’s Eve loss to the Houston Rockets.

“I felt really comfortable out there,” Porter said. “It’s amazing to start the year like this. It’s an amazing feeling and I have my teammates and coaches to thank.”

The Pacers raced to a 14-point lead with 5:23 remaining in the first quarter, with the Nuggets’ efforts to get back on terms hindered by foul trouble for Nikola Jokic.

Denver wouldn’t take the lead until Gary Harris drained a three-pointer with 9:16 left in the third to make it 73-72.

Porter poured in 10 points in the third quarter and Jokic added eight of his 22 points in the period as the Nuggets took a 92-88 lead into the final frame.

Denver opened the fourth on an 11-6 scoring run and the Pacers — led by Jeremy Lamb’s 30 points — couldn’t recover.

Jokic — forced into three fouls in just eight minutes in the first half — scored 20 points in just 16 minutes after the interval to help the Nuggets notch their third win in four games.

They stayed in second place in the Western Conference — half a game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers, who hosted the Detroit Pistons later Thursday.

“This was a really good win for us,” said Nuggets coach Mike Malone, noting that the Pacers were 15-3 on their home floor going into the contest. “I like how we responded after that tough loss in Houston.”

The Miami Heat launched 2020 with a dominant defensive performance, holding the reigning champion Toronto Raptors to 31.5 percent shooting in an 84-76 victory.

Bam Adebayo led Miami with 15 points and 14 rebounds and the Heat out-scored the Raptors 21-16 in the fourth quarter to pull away in a close contest, improving their league-best home record to 16-1.

The Raptors, still missing injured Spanish big man Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam, were led by the 19 points and 10 rebounds of center Serge Ibaka.

© Agence France-Presse