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Jokic exits Nuggets’ loss early with knee contusion

Denver Nuggets center and reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic suffered a right knee contusion late in the second quarter Tuesday night and was held out of the remainder of the 122-110 loss at Utah.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert was attempting to drive on Jokic along the baseline when he banged knees with him. Jokic went down almost immediately and appeared to be in a great deal of pain as he held his right knee.

“I really haven’t had a chance to talk to trainers yet but I don’t think it’s anything too too serious,” Denver coach Michael Malone said after the game.

Jokic left the game with 1:54 remaining in the second quarter. He was initially listed as questionable to return by the team. But while Jokic was on the court for warm-ups at halftime, Malone talked to his center and then made the decision to keep him out for the remainder of the game to be safe.

“He said it feels a little weak, and I just shut him down,” said Malone, who wasn’t sure whether Jokic would require additional testing on his knee. “I took the decision, it’s not his decision to make.”

Malone later added: “What I have learned about Nikola is, if you leave it up to Nikola, he is going to play every game. So sometimes I have to make decisions for him, and it makes no sense for me when he told me it feels a little weak for him to play in the second half. And that is for any player. … It just didn’t make any sense to have Nikola go out there for a second night of a back-to-back and the risk of any further damage.”

The Nuggets are already without star guard Jamal Murray, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in April.

Jokic won his first MVP award last season and is off to a hot start. He had 24 points, six rebounds and six assists while making 8 of 9 shots in 15 minutes in the first half against Utah. Jokic went into Tuesday’s game averaging 27.7 points, 16.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

“He said he thinks he’s fine,” Denver point guard Monte Morris said. “He’s a real tough dude. I am sure he will be OK. I hope so.”

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