ATLANTA – Nikola Jokic wasn’t keeping track of his points as the night wore on. He just knew he was scoring a lot.
“I never know that,” he said. “I just liked the flow of the game. I think I made a few shots and got to the line a little bit and I think the flow was really good for me.”
Jokic scored a career-high 47 points, Will Barton added a season-best 28 on his 29th birthday and the Denver Nuggets held off the Atlanta Hawks 123-115 on Monday.
Denver, coming off a surprising loss at Washington two nights earlier, has won four of six to improve to 25-11, second-best in the Western Conference. Atlanta, worst in the NBA at 8-29, has dropped 11 of 13.
Trae Young finished with 29 points and Kevin Huerter had 22 for the Hawks.
Jokic surpassed his previous career high of 41 points with a putback that gave Denver a 114-109 lead with 3:14 remaining. Jamal Murray followed with a turnaround jumper in the lane and Barton put back his own miss to put the Nuggets up 118-109 at the 1:57 mark.
That essentially ended all hopes for the Hawks, but it wasn’t entirely easy for Denver.
Jokic’s previous career high was set Nov. 7, 2017, at home against Brooklyn. His previous season high, 31, came at home nine days ago against Memphis.
“We go as he goes,” Barton said. “I feel like no one can stop him.”
After John Collins’ dunk cut the lead to 91-88 just 22 seconds into the fourth quarter, Denver coach Michael Malone called a timeout. Monte Morris followed with a runner and Michael Porter Jr. jammed in a putback to make it 95-88.
Atlanta cut the margin to one before Barton found Morris for an alley-oop and hit a 3-pointer to make it 106-100 with 6:54 remaining.
The Hawks pulled within two on Young’s 10.7-meter jumper with 4:24 left, and Malone called another timeout. The move worked as the Hawks made just three field goals the rest of the way.
Huerter’s second straight 3 cut the lead to two at the 6:07 mark of the third, and Malone called a timeout. Jokic quickly followed with a jumper, then stole the ball in the lane from Alex Len to set up Murray’s two free throws.
“Jokic is definitely a very skilled player,” Collins said. “I felt like he got to the line a lot tonight, which gave him a little bit of a boost, but I still feel like down the stretch and for four quarters we did a solid job just trying to make him take tough shots.
“We did the best we could.”
Jerami Grant’s three-point play made it 36-34 at the 9:37 mark of the second, and the Nuggets didn’t trail again. About three minutes later, Grant rebounded a missed Hawks shot and drove for a layup that gave Denver its first double-digit lead.
Murray’s layup in the final second put the Nuggets up by nine at halftime.
Denver outrebounded the Hawks 40-34 and has won 12 straight and 17 of 19 when leading on the boards.
Spurs 126, Bucks 104
In San Antonio, DeMar DeRozan had 25 points and the Spurs hit a season-high 19 3-pointers to beat Milwaukee, snapping the Bucks’ five-game winning streak.
Patty Mills added 21 points, shooting 6 of 10 on 3-pointers, for San Antonio (15-20). LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay added 18 points each.
The Spurs finished 19-for-35 on 3s and shot 51 percent overall.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for Milwaukee. Donte DiVincenzo added 16 points.
The Bucks, whose previous loss was on Christmas at Philadelphia, maintain the NBA’s best record at 32-6.
76ers 120, Thunder 113
In Philadelphia, Joel Embiid scored 18 points while playing with a dislocated left ring finger and Ben Simmons had 17 points and 15 rebounds as the hosts ended a four-game losing streak by beating Oklahoma City.
The 76ers lost all four games on a trip that knocked them down the Eastern Conference standings and raised questions about how far this team can go in the playoffs.
The Thunder, who had won five straight, closed within two with three minutes left before the Sixers scored nine straight points to put the game away.
Steven Adams had 24 points and 15 rebounds for Oklahoma City, while Chris Paul scored 18.
Jazz 128, Pelicans 126
In New Orleans, Bojan Bogdanovic poured in 35 points, Joe Ingles added 22 and Utah extended its winning streak to six games by holding off New Orleans.
Brandon Ingram had 35 points for the Pelicans but could not convert a driving layup attempt at the horn while being defended by Rudy Gobert. The Jazz center was chasing Ingram down the right side of the lane and appeared to make body-to-body contact that forced Ingram over the baseline as he attempted to take the final shot.
Gobert had 19 rebounds and teammate Donovan Mitchell capped a 19-point night with a driving floater in the lane that broke a 126-126 tie with 1:12 left and wound up being the winning basket in a game that had 18 lead changes and 11 ties.
Wizards 99, Celtics 94
In Washington, missing star guard Kemba Walker, Boston became the latest NBA contender to surprisingly come up short against one of the league’s worst teams, losing to the Wizards as Ish Smith scored 27 points to lead a depleted lineup.
Walker sat out his third game in a row with the flu, and while the Celtics won the previous two — against also-rans Atlanta and Chicago — they couldn’t overcome poor shooting, a slow start and a whole lot of Smith.
One game after pouring in a career-high 32 points as a reserve, Smith again came off the bench to pace the Wizards. The 31-year-old guard even heard “M-V-P!” chants in the fourth quarter, when he scored 14 points, including 10 straight forWashington during one 5-for-5 shooting stretch.
Boston’s Jaylen Brown scored 23 points but shot 7-for-22, Marcus Smart was 3-for- 14, Jayson Tatum went 8-for-20 and Gordon Hayward was 4 of 11, including an air ball on a wide-open 3 attempt with under 90 seconds remaining.
Mavericks 118, Bulls 110
In Dallas, Luka Doncic scored 21 of his 38 points in the third quarter and had his NBA-leading 11th triple-double of the season to lead the Mavericks past Chicago.
Doncic scored 17 of Dallas’ 19 points in the final 5:35 of the third to break open what had been a tie game. His 3-pointer gave the hosts a 72-69 lead they did not relinquish.
The 20-year-old added 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Mavs, who played without Kristaps Porzingis for the fourth straight game because of right knee soreness.
Lauri Markkanen led the Bulls with 26 points, starting the game despite spraining his left ankle Saturday night against Boston.
Magic 101, Nets 89
In Orlando, Markelle Fultz finished with a career-high 25 points, including seven straight during a 15-1 run in the fourth quarter that sent the Magic past slumping Brooklyn.
Nikola Vucevic had 24 rebounds and 11 points for his 300th career double-double, and the Magic pulled away in the final seven minutes after going 9:20 without a field goal.
Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie scored 16 apiece for the Nets, who lost their sixth straight game after charging back from a 16-point deficit to take a lead in the fourth quarter.
Pacers 115, Hornets 104
In Charlotte, T.J. Warren scored 30 of his season-high 36 points in the second half and Indiana topped the hosts to halt a two-game skid.
Domantas Sabonis added 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, while Miles Turner had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers, who had lost four of five.
Terry Rozier had 28 points for the Hornets, whose two-game win streak ended. Devonte Graham added 22 points and six assists.
Kings 111, Warriors 98
In Sacramento, De’Aaron Fox had 21 points and seven assists, Buddy Hield also scored 21 and the Kings thumped Golden State.
Trevor Ariza added a season-high 18 points for Sacramento, and Harrison Barnes scored 18 as well.
Glenn Robinson III had 16 points for Golden State. The Warriors, who played without Draymond Green and D’Angelo Russell, have lost five straight after a season-high four-game winning streak.