NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Nikola Jokic was back in Denver's starting lineup Tuesday night against New Orleans after missing the Nuggets' previous two games because of tightness in his left hamstring.

The 7-foot center from Serbia is a two-time NBA MVP. He's averaging 25.1 points, 11 rebounds and 9.9 assists this season.

His return comes against a Pelicans squad missing two if its top offensive players in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

Pelicans coach Willie Green said before tipoff that if Jokic returned, it would complicate his game plan.

“He’s a great player for a reason, because he makes it very difficult on coaching staffs to figure him out. He makes it difficult on teams and players,” Green said. “Guys that touch the ball that much, they’re going to have an impact on the game at some point.”

The Nuggets entered the night leading the Western Conference with a 33-14 record. They have gone 3-3 in the six games Jokic has missed, including a loss in their previous game against Oklahoma City on Sunday that snapped a nine-game winning streak.


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