DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray returned to the Denver Nuggets’ lineup Saturday night after missing seven games with a strained right knee and scored 16 points over 21 minutes in a 142-110 clobbering of the Atlanta Hawks.

Nikola Jokic recorded his 25th triple-double of the season even as he took the fourth quarter off and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added a season-high 24 points, propelling the Nuggets (54-24) into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of the idle Minnesota Timberwolves, who visit Denver on Wednesday night.

Clint Capela led Atlanta with 19 points.

The showdown between the Wolves and Nuggets could decide the top seed in the West, although Oklahoma City is just a game back. Nuggets coach Michael Malone has insisted he’s more concerned with his team’s health than its seeding, but Denver did parley the No. 1 seed a year ago into a 10-1 home record in the playoffs on its way to winning the franchise’s first NBA championship.

Jokic had 19 points, 14 boards and 11 assists, while Murray added six assists in his first appearance since getting hurt March 21 in a game against the New York Knicks.

The defending NBA champions went 4-3 in Murray’s absence and the Nuggets’ bench was a major concern during that time.

Even with Aaron Gordon (foot) sitting this one out, Murray’s return rippled through the roster. Reggie Jackson, who had started in Murray’s absence, scored 18 points off the bench and Denver’s reserves tallied 58 points after scoring just three baskets in their last game, a 102-100 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles.

Michael Porter Jr. added 20 points for the Nuggets, who sank 23 3-pointers.

Denver’s reserves had 27 first-half points and used an 11-3 spurt to start the second quarter to take control and give the Nuggets a 15-point cushion on their way to a 69-56 halftime advantage.

UP NEXT:

Hawks: Host the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.

Nuggets: Visit the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night.

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