So...Emmanuel Mudiay and the Denver Nuggets caught fire tonight.
Racing out to a 42-23 lead in the first quarter behind Mudiay’s 24 points in the frame, the Nuggets looked like an entirely different team. As soon as the point guard began to play well, the entire team followed suit. It was a sight to see for all of Nuggets Nation and an impactful performance after the night before against Detroit. His energy inspired the entire Nuggets team to a relatively easy win on the road, a 123-107 victory against a good Celtics team.
Michael Malone let cooler heads prevail with his starting lineup changes he promised, inserting Gary Harris for Jamal Murray. He left in the struggling Emmanuel Mudiay as well as the experimental combination of Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic. This turned out to be pivotal, as the first two baskets came from the two big men. With strong defense on the other end and a Mudiay And-1, the Nuggets rushed out to a 9-4 lead.
The #Nuggets also very clearly looking to pound things into the paint early against the Celtics, who are w/o Al Horford & Jae Crowder— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) November 7, 2016
Gary Harris made his mark on the offensive and defensive end early. He slashed to the basket for a layup and played some strong defense on Isaiah Thomas, then he hit a jumper. It was nice to see Harris getting in the grill of the diminutive point guard.
Emmanuel Mudiay had an acrobatic layup under the basket, and his start truly reflected how well the Nuggets played as a team to begin the game. He did miss a three pointer badly, but he just had a different look about him. The Nuggets followed suit, playing an elite game on both ends.
I had all of that written before Mudiay decided to go OFF. Holy hell was he good in the first quarter.
Emmanuel Mudiay - 22 pts in the first quarter. 8-9 from the field 3-4 from three. No those aren’t typos..— Harrison Wind (@NBAWind) November 7, 2016
I don't know if I've seen Mudiay hit a heat check three pointer. He hit 3 heat check 3s in a row in the 1st.— Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares) November 7, 2016
So Mudi-YAY tonight. Amirite?? Eh? Eh?— Jeff Morton (@KingOfThornton) November 7, 2016
His final tallies for the first quarter: 24 points on 9/10 from the field and 3/4 from distance. The Nuggets finished the quarter up 42-23. FOURTY TWO POINTS!
The group to begin the second quarter was Jameer Nelson-Jamal Murray-Chandler-Kenneth Faried-Jokic, and they went back and forth to start. Chandler made his presence felt in the lane, and while the interior defense was a bit porous, Jokic dunked on the other end, making up for everything. He also made an incredible pass out of the post in which Faried got fouled.
Mudiay returned at the 8:21 mark in the quarter for Murray, a quick substitution by Malone. Gallo also returned. What stood out to me with this group was the number of mid range jumpers the Nuggets forced on defense, and only Thomas was hitting them. He got into the lane and drew some fouls, but his impact wasn’t truly felt given the hot shooting by Denver. They kept the pressure on offensively as well, maintaining a 20+ point lead throughout.
The defense kept the clamps on to end the quarter with one of the favorite lineups: Mudiay-Harris-Gallo-Chandler-Jokic. It got a little crazy, but Gallo had a great dunk in the last minute.
Mudiay may not have scored in the second quarter, but the Nuggets still led 77-52 going into halftime after an incredibly efficient display. Mudiay had 24, Chandler had 15 on 5 of 8 shooting, and no Celtics player scored in the double digits outside of Thomas’ 21.
The Celtics came out firing in the second half with some aggressiveness to the basket and full court press. They started three guards in Thomas, Bradley, and Smart, and the Nuggets’ two bigs couldn’t make them pay on the other end, so Malone immediately subbed in Chandler for Nurkic. Thomas got a phantom, awful, insane, and mind-boggling foul called on Harris, sending him to the bench with his fifth infraction.
That said, Chandler got a layup, hit a three, and played solid defense again to start his minutes, and it calmed the Nuggets down a little bit. The Celtics kept coming back though, knocking the lead down to 15 points before a Jokic And-1. Gallinari knocked in a couple of threes in a row as well, but Chandler was the big story in the third quarter to keep the Celtics at arm’s length.
Isaiah Thomas gets soooooo many calls going to the basket. He’s protected. That’s a fact, and it’s all I will say about that.
Murray got into the action as well with a nice corner three, and Mudiay had a nice hesitation drive to the basket. After a couple of Celtics baskets, the score settled in at 103-83 over three quarters.
The Celtics announcers kept remarking about how the Nuggets were not good, but neglected to explain why the Nuggets were winning.
The team started out strongly in the fourth with a few baskets and rebounds by Faried, but they received some bad news about Chandler.
Wilson Chandler (left hamstring tightness) will not return vs Boston.— Harrison Wind (@NBAWind) November 7, 2016
At the 8:39 mark, Faried hit two free throws to put Denver up 113-91, which was then followed by two free throws from Mudiay. The game slowed down at that point with multiple misses and slow trips back and forth. With the Nuggets up big, it certainly played to their favor. The Nuggets played some sterling defense with a lineup featuring Faried at center. While they didn’t score, they prevented any sort of run from the Celtics.
Emmanuel found the bottom of the net on a contested, turnaround jumper to net his 30th point, and that ended his night after a super saiyan first quarter. After that, the Nuggets brought in the young rookies for some garbage time. The Celtics got some buckets, but the final score was 123-107 with the Nuggets winning easily.
Things that impressed me:
The Nuggets brought the pain early.
The energy from the Nuggets was high from the opening tip. They won handily because of how they started and how they continued to apply the pedal to the medal. They certainly shot well, but it happened because they got to the paint early and did their damage inside. The two bigs were the catalyst initially, but it turned into the Mudiay show, which leads me to...
Adam Mares is amazing.
No, I’m not sucking up to the editor of the site on purpose, but in his last edition of “Locked on Nuggets” he made a plea to Nuggets fans to relax on their Emmanuel Mudiay hot takes. It didn’t happen immediately, but Mudiay showed the world from the get-go in this one why he has star potential. He carried the Nuggets with an amazing display, and they fed off his energy to score 123 in the game. Mares will never take credit for this, but he deserves some kudos for putting cold water on the fire stirred up in Nuggets Nation.
Wilson Chandler is back, and I hope he’s okay.
While he did leave with a hamstring injury, Chandler was a great secondary scorer tonight. He played well throughout, hitting shots, grabbing rebounds, and spacing the floor well throughout. Without him, the Nuggets don’t win this game in my opinion. At the beginning of the third quarter, the Celtics came out gunning. Malone’s response? Insert Chandler to stem the tide. That will be Ill Wil’s role for this Nuggets team, and he played it to perfection against Boston.