Cousins leads in Jokic’s absence, Nuggets beat Rockets

DENVER (AP) DeMarcus Cousins, starting in place of ailing Nikola Jokic, scored a season-high 31 points and the Denver Nuggets bounced back from a loss to beat the struggling Houston Rockets 116-101 on Friday night.

Jokic, the reigning MVP, was held out because of a non-COVID-19 illness.

JaMychal Green and Jeff Green each added 14 points apiece as Denver shook off a loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday night for its seventh win in eight games.

Will Barton had 11 points, hitting two 3-pointers to become the pass JR Smith as the Nuggets’ career leader with 769.

Christian Wood had 22 points for Houston, and Jalen Green added 18. The Rockets have lost 12 straight.

Barton hit two 3-pointers a minute apart late in the third quarter to break the mark. The Nuggets called a timeout during their ensuing possession and Barton’s milestone was flashed on the scoreboard, bringing the crowd to its feet with a roaring ovation that Barton acknowledged with an appreciative wave of his arms.

Cousins added a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws around a jumper by Garrison Mathews in the final 1:16 of the third period and Denver took a 17-point lead into the final quarter.

Cousins’ dunk, one of several that he had in the game, put the Nuggets up 103-89 with 4:43 left and Denver maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way. Cousins was taken out of the game with just under two minutes remaining and got a hug from coach Michael Malone and an ovation from the crowd.

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Dennis Schroder missed a second consecutive game with a sprained right ankle. . Former Nuggets star Kenyon Martin was on hand in the stands to watch his son, Kenyon Martin Jr., play for the Rockets. . Houston has only seven wins in 34 road games.

Nuggets: G Austin Rivers also was ruled out of the game because of a non-COVID-19 illness. . F Zeke Nnaji remains sidelined due to bilateral knee soreness. . Cousins’ previous season high was 22 points against Dallas on Dec. 23 while with Milwaukee. . Denver swept its season series with the Rockets 3-0.

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UP NEXT

Rockets: Host Memphis on Sunday night.

Nuggets: Host New Orleans on Sunday night.

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