NEW YORK -- They call him 'the Joker,' but there is nothing funny about Nikola Jokic's game.

The second-year center from Serbia poured in a career-high 40 points to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 131-123 victory over the New York Knicks on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Jokic was 17 of 23 from the field, grabbed nine rebounds and had five assists for the Nuggets (24-29). He has at least five assists in 18 games this season, ranking fifth among centers in assists per game.

"I don't think he (Jokic) is a star in the making," said Nuggets coach Mike Malone. "He is a star. His numbers back him up. He is doing it against really good players, all-star level players.

"He is going to get everything he deserves because he works hard and he is a great kid. He is a guy I'd pay to see, not because he's dunking on anybody or blowing by anybody. It's because of his skill, his flair, his joy."

Wilson Chandler scored 19 points, and Gary Harris and Jameer Nelson registered 16 points each. Nelson also had 11 assists. Will Barton posted his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

Carmelo Anthony topped the Knicks (22-34) with 33 points. New York has lost four straight on its five-game homestand and seven of the last nine.

Denver scored at least 120 points for the eighth time in the last 16 games and the second against the Knicks. The Nuggets dealt New York a 127-114 loss on Dec. 17.

Denver is one of the highest scoring teams during that stretch. It is averaging 116 points, shooting 49 percent from the field and scoring close to 55 points in the paint each game.

The Nuggets picked up 68 points in the paint against a tender Knicks defense that wasn't able to control Jokic.

New York also had difficulty defending the perimeter. The Nuggets shot 50 percent (16 of 32) from beyond the arc.

"They (Knicks starters) couldn't guard anybody," a visibly upset Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. "It's as simple as that. They should be embarrassed at the way they couldn't guard anybody.

"If those guys (starters) are happy scoring their points, we're going to lose every game."

Anthony did his best to bring the Knicks back in the fourth quarter, scoring 21 points in the last 8:36.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Anthony got the Knicks to 113-103 with 5:49 left, but Harris nailed a 3-pointer and was fouled by Courtney Lee. Harris completed the four-point play that gave Denver a 125-115 edge with 2:11 to play.

Jokic accumulated 18 points in the third quarter, helping the Nuggets to a 100-88 lead.

"I was being aggressive," he said. "I was attacking. I was making them (Knicks) work on defense. If you are working on defense, offense isn't that easy for you.

"I have to thank my teammates because they passed me the ball. When your teammates trust you, it's real easy to play."

After New York knotted it at 70, Denver used a 16-8 burst for an 86-78 edge with 5:08 left in the third quarter. Jokic netted seven points in the sequence.

A short hook shot from Jokic tied it at 68, then an easy bucket from Harris from Jokic made it 70-68 in favor of the Nuggets early in the third quarter.

Harris and Nelson delivered 3-pointers 56 seconds apart to get Denver within 66-64 at the half. The Nuggets were 9 of 19 from beyond the arc (47 percent) in the first half.

A layup from Brandon Jennings gave the Knicks a 54-42 cushion, their largest of the first half.

New York snapped a 34-34 second-quarter tie with a 10-2 run for a 44-36 lead.

The Nuggets connected on 6 of 11 3-pointers in the first quarter en route to a 34-32 lead. The lead changed six times in the quarter.

NOTES: Knicks G Brandon Jennings, starting for the 11th time this season, had a team-leading 13 assists. He has led the team in that category 27 times. ... The Knicks gave up at least 30 points in each quarter for the first time this season. ... New York allowed season highs in field goals (54) and field goal percentage (56.8). ... Knicks owner James Dolan said former Knicks player Charles Oakley is banned from Madison Square Garden after being arrested during the game against the Clippers on Wednesday. Oakley was charged with three counts of assault after an altercation near Dolan and had to be restrained by security guards. "It's not necessarily a lifetime ban," Dolan said on a radio interview, "but we need to keep the (Madison Square) Garden a place that's comfortable and safe." ... The Nuggets were without F Kenneth Faried (sprained right ankle), G Emmanuel Mudiay (lower back pain) and F Danillo Gallinari (strained groin). ... C Joakim Noah (sore left hamstring) missed his third straight game.