Nuggets Nation! Let's just talk about what happened for the short recap, can get more cogent thoughts down in the broader recap after...
A cold night in Denver does not translate to the same for either the Denver Nuggets or Memphis Grizzlies shooting, as both teams come out trading baskets, with Denver is forcing the action down low, and seeing some rewards because of it. Memphis' backcourt sees the same paths into the paint, though, and the Nuggets keep paying with short floaters given up to both Grizzlies guards.
Though Denver looks a little slow to the ball in Q1, their shots are falling, and the lead changes hands several times in the first 8 minutes of the game. The Nuggets are sharing the scoring load nicely, with all starters but Timofey Mozgov having a couple of buckets to spread the wealth.
J.J. Hickson enters for Faried at the four-minute mark, and the lead exchange continues, with Denver holding their own against Memphis until there are only a couple minutes left in the quarter. Jusuf Nurkic and Darrell Arthur see their first action at the 1:45 mark, and Denver goes on a quick 13-0 run, and exit the quarter up on the Grizzlies by 10, 32-22.
Memphis comes out of the gates hot, scoring six unanswered before Denver can get back in the scoring column on a Hickson bunny. With the full second team in, you worry if they'll continue their scoring drought, but the Nuggets keep even with the Grizzlies until starters start to return at the seven-minute mark.
Denver stays busy with crashing passing lanes, and continues to force the odd turnover, unfortunately giving back most of what they pick up in that regard. Denver stretches its lead back to 10 on a sweet layup over traffic by Nate Robinson. Unfortunately, NateRob landed awkwardly, and left the court after taking a couple of awkward off-hand free throws (Robinson ended up with a nasty sprain).
With continued pressure, Denver gets their lead back, and a little more, behind taking what is afforded them by the Memphis defense. By the three-minute mark, Denver folds a 13-point lead, 45-32. Memphis tries to close the gap, but Ty Lawson is finally feeling it from the floor, and notches 14 points by the end of the half on a variety of jumpers. Kenneth Faried is closing in a double double with nine points and eight rebounds. At half's end, Denver leads the Grizzlies 49-38. But we saw a double digit lead disappear in Chicago the other night, what did the Nuggets learn?
Memphis gets some quick points on the board to start the half, but Denver quickly finds themselves, and further presses their advantage. By the 9:30 mark, a court-long pass from Ty to Arron Afflalo for a layup presses the Denver advantage to 17, 57-40. What's most heartening thus far is Denver's defensive pressure on the Grizzlies.
At 7:30, Chris Marlowe announces that Jusuf Nurkic's fall in Chicago left a "contusion on... his... tushie." Tushie. Holy frijole. I swear Nurkic blushed unknowingly.
Just shy of the six minute mark, a Lawson three puts the Nuggets up by 18, and then... You knew it would be a game of runs, and Memphis pushed the lead back down to a dozen before Denver started making it another back and forth. Once the game started getting chippy, and the Nuggets pushing the lead back to 17, Memphis had a mini meltdown, with quick technical coming for Tony Allen and Marc Gasol, sandwiched around a double tech for Memphis coach David Joerger in trying to incite his team.
For the first time in what only feels like forever, Denver is finally hitting their midrange shots with regularity, and Afflalo and Lawson continue to pour in points from all over the floor. By end of quarter, everything is falling, and Denver is up on the Memphis Grizzlies, by... get this... 23 points. Wrapped up by a double block by Nurkic that ended with he and Gasol having words coming off the court. Lawson has 22, Afflalo has 23, and I keep trying to wake myself from this crazy basketball dream.
And still, I'm nervous. Nervous we can blow a 23 point lead to one of the NBA's best teams (though they've only played .500 ball since Zach Randolph went out with an injury six games ago.)
Fortunately, the Nuggets seem to be taking the tenor of this game personally, and standing back up to Memphis at every turn. Denver continues with tough D and hot shooting to press their advantage to 28 by the 8:22 mark (90-62). Denver stretches the lead to 30 at the 6:40 mark with a bucket by Nurkic that gives him his second double double in a row. The kid will have growing pains still, but he is clearly giving Gasol and the rest of the Grizzlies frontcourt fits tonight.
Wilson Chandler joins in on the heat-seeking fray, and a pair of threes from him as we trade baskets extends the lead to 31. By the six minute mark, subs were into the game, and Gary Harris and Erick Green come into a game well out of hand. Mozzie joins back in to give Nurkic a spell, and the game is well in hand to watch some subscrub over the last six minutes.
A final five of Mozgov, Harris, Green, Hickson, and Alonzo Gee finish up the last few minutes of the game, and keep the distance respectable via several traded buckets and free throws carrying us to a final score of 114-85. A 29 point victory for the good guys.
No doubt about it, Denver actually had a capital D tonight, as the defense was on display throughout the game. Quite possibly our most impressive win thus far, or at least in the top three for the season. More to come in the full recap. What did you see, Nuggets Nation? Fun game, no? Talk to me!