Markus Howard extended the Nuggets preseason by five minutes and used that time to lead Denver to its only win in five exhibitions games, a 113-107 win Thursday over Oklahoma City in Tulsa.
His reward was a game ball presented by teammate Austin Rivers. Rivers tracked Howard down after the second-year guard out of Marquette missed the final shot of a previous preseason game, and was there again after his big night.
“He’s been really encouraging throughout my entire process being in Denver,” Howard said.
“That’s just a guy who thinks about nothing other than the team. I’m really fortunate and blessed to have a big brother like Austin to always have my back.”
Howard hit a tying 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left in regulation before hitting three more 3-pointers in overtime. He finished with 31 points, scoring nine of the Nuggets’ 11 points in overtime, in 31 minutes. He finished 9 of 17 from 3-point range.
“He works so hard for it. To see it all come together, it was great,” Nuggets forward Zeke Nnaji said. “We’re all super happy for him.”
Something other than Howard’s scoring stood out to coach Michael Malone.
“I thought he fought,” Malone said. “He had five rebounds. He’s one of the smallest players on the court. We were doing a lot of switching all over the place. Markus is fighting in the post, so it wasn’t just the offense. I thought the effort that he gave off the bench tonight was, obviously, critical to our win.”
Will Barton III was the only starter from Wednesday’s game to play in Thursday’s game. He opened the game alongside Facundo Campazzo, Rivers, Bol Bol and Nnaji, while Monte Morris, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokic, PJ Dozier, Jeff Green and JaMychal Green got the night off.
Oklahoma City also rested most of its key contributors and started three rookies and a second-year player. Aleksej Pokusevski led the Thunder with 22 points.
Barton did not play in the second half and finished with 14 points on nine shots with two rebounds, one assists one steal and one block. Without Barton, the Nuggets needed 3-pointers from rookie Bones Hyland and Howard in the final 68 seconds to force overtime and get their first and only win of the preseason.
“It just feels good because that group has been on the court a few times when we have not been able to get the win,” Malone said. “For them to see it through and taste victory, I’m just happy for them, because those guys have been working very hard. I thought our defense in the fourth quarter and overtime was terrific alongside Markus’s timely shooting.”
After a 1-4 preseason, the Nuggets open the regular season Wednesday at Phoenix.