"The guys wanted to win, they wanted to play hard," said assistant coach Melvin Hunt. "The more you play with each other; you get a little bit better and a little more comfortable. Basketball is supposed to be fun, if I wasn't old, fat, and out of shape I'd love to play, too. So they may as well enjoy it. There's nothing like if you play hard and play together, it's going to be fun."
The Nuggets put together their first complete game of the summer league and saved their best performance for the tournament. Denver started the game with a 31-17 lead thanks to Jordan Hamilton's hot shooting. He went 6-8 in the opening quarter (3-5 from deep, 3-3 from the foul line) and burst onto the scene for 18 points.
Hamilton missed the team's last game to attend his cousin's funeral (he passed from cancer) in Los Angeles and played inspired ball in his return.
"I had a chance to clear my mind," said Hamilton. "It was on my mind for the last week and it affected my game. I had a chance to spend time with him yesterday and I just came out aggressive tonight and I feel like I played well."
Hamilton finished the game with a team-high 23 points on 8-14 shooting (4-7 from deep, 3-3 from the foul line) to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 steals. He got some much needed scoring help from teammates Quincy Miller and Erick Green.
Miller finished the game with 17 points on 6-10 shooting. Quincy put on a show by going 5-5 from downtown.
"It was fun," said Miller of his three-point shooting. "My guards kept looking for me so I kept trying to knock down shots so they'd give me another one."
That was Miller's finest shooting performance, but his offense has looked pretty good throughout the summer league. To go along with his hot shooting he also tallied 5 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal.
"We're seeing him make new mistakes and that's a big deal for us," said Hunt. "We know you're going to make mistakes, but make new mistakes; grow. Some of the things he has worked on and has drilled, he has got to get on the court and try it. If he makes mistakes, so be it. We'll get better; we'll show him on tape and try to develop him. We're looking for that out of all of our guys - you shouldn't be making the same mistakes at the beginning of summer league that you make at the end."
Another player that has shown growth throughout Denver's four games is rookie Erick Green. His outside shot has been reliable in Las Vegas as he's shooting 7-9 from downtown over the past three games. What he has been wanting to do is be more aggressive and that was on display today as he went 5-9 from the field (1-1 from deep, 3-3 from the foul line) for 14 points off the bench - a new role for Green in Vegas.
"It didn't matter, whatever the team needs," said Green about coming off the bench. "I'm just starting to feel more confident, I'm going out there and [trying] to stop thinking so much and just be myself. I'm just always thinking so much right now, I just need to go play."
This was the first game where Green looked to play more carefree and it paid off as he was a reliable scorer for the team. He also tallied 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal.
The Nuggets stay alive in the tournament and will have their next game on Thursday, July 18th at 4:00 pm MT vs. the Toronto Raptors in the Cox Pavilion. That will mark the fourth game in four days for the young team. Hunt summed up the whole experience when talking about Quincy Miller.
"As a 20 year-old kid, he doesn't know yet. He doesn't even know what he doesn't know," said Hunt. "We're just hoping that he'll get out there, we can teach him, and he can be coached. This is like school."
Next class - tomorrow.
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-Hamilton drew a stare down from Pelicans guard Austin Rivers after Hamilton bumped Rivers on his way down from a dunk. On a few other occasions, after the fact, Rivers could be seen jawing at Hamilton. Jordan had some playful words for Rivers after the game.
"He has little man syndrome," said Hamilton. "I'm a lot taller than him and he came up to me talking trash. Knowing me, I'm just not going to let it ride too much when you get disrespectful."
-The Nuggets shot 12-22 from three-point land, good for 54.5%
-Denver connected on 19-21 free throw attempts, good for 90.5%
Next game: Thursday, July 18th at 4:00 pm MT at the Cox Pavilion vs. Toronto Raptors.
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