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Recap: Denver falls to Memphis, 108-107

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The Nuggets blow another game in the final seconds, forgetting execution and leaving another victory on the cutting room floor.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

That’s one way to throw a game away. The Nuggets are experimenting with all sorts of ways to do that, but several last-second blunders snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as Denver lost to the Memphis Grizzlies on a buzzer-beater, 108-107. Emmanuel Mudiay had 23 points and 7 assists, but his 7 turnovers helped blow the game. Danilo Gallinari put in 21 but was a non-factor at the end of the contest. Vince Carter let the Grizzlies with 20 points, Zach Randolph had 16, and Marc Gasol logged 19 in victory, but none more crucial than his final bucket that stole the victory away. More on that later.

Jokic and Nurkic started the game together, and Mudiay hit a three for the first points of the night. Nurkic and Mudiay scored the first 9 points for Denver on 4-for-4 shooting. Some mishandled Nuggets passes led to Memphis buckets and Memphis took the 12-11 lead on an 8-0 run. Nurkic went out for Faried after 5 minutes and Gasol immediately scored over him, with Memphis taking the early paint points lead 14-2. Memphis was determined to at the rim. A beautiful Mudiay step-through and Gallinari spinning 20-foot jumper tied the game at 18, though, and the Nuggets stayed committed to size.

Jokic swapped out for Nurkic just over the two minute mark and it looked like Denver might roll with one of the two men at center for the majority of the game. Nurkic immediately hit a shot, got a block and sprinted down court for a dunk. Murray's gunning and missing didn't help matters, but Jameer Nelson hit a late 3 and Faried got a block to wrap the quarter with both teams tied at 26.

Andrew Harrison's bloody jersey slowed the start of the second, but a beautiful inbound from Juancho Hernangomez led to a Faried hook and Denver first lead in nearly a quarter. Vince Carter then scored 5 straight to put that lead on ice. The Nuggets had the lead in turnovers at 8-1 when Harrison hit a 3 to make it 33-30 and Malone called a timeout.

Denver came out of the timeout with energy and Nurkic got into double figures by assaulting the basket on a nice roll play, but the Bosnian took an elbow to the face on defense from Jarell Martin and the entire Nuggets bench came out to check on him in a show of solidarity. Nurkic would be all right but Denver couldn't make up ground with Conley on the bench. Memphis took their biggest lead of the game at 42-35 but were reeled back in as the starters logged 40 of Denver's first 47 points and pulled to within one at 48-47 with 3 minutes to go in the half. Denver took the lead back on hustle plays culminating with a Faried dunk off a Mudiay missed layup (naturally). Jarnell Stokes came in to keep Nurkic out of foul trouble and immediately got a rebound and foul shots, but the 2nd quarter finished the second quarter like they did the first: tied, this time at 56.

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Jokic and Nurkic both picked up their third and fourth personal fouls in the two minutes of the third quarter and both had to sit. That put Denver at a significant size disadvantage and Memphis went up 5 after a Chandler Parsons dunk. The Nuggets started the third 1-for-8 with 4 turnovers as Memphis got the lead back to 7 at 67-60. The game ground to a halt with foul calls and ugly turnovers by both teams but Denver refused to lose contact with the Grizzlies. Gallo's three and Mudiay's drive-and-foul pulled Denver within one with four minutes to go in the quarter.

Murray's three tied it at 72 but the Grizzlies' bench was killing Denver's 35-16 through 3, led by the ageless Vince Carter's 17. Gallo put in 9 points in the third and Juancho had a stellar block in the last minute, but Memphis still took a 79-76 lead into the fourth.

Nurkic started the quarter with another turnover as the Grizzlies came out with two straight buckets once Mudiay and Gallo left the court. Murray hit a three and a cutter and both Nurkic and Jokic returned to the court to counter the size of the Grizzlies. Jokic had trouble on both ends with Z-Bo, to the point that it began to affect the shots he would take, but it stayed a 7 point game when Gallinari came back in at just under 7 minutes to go.

Denver's turnover plague continued to rain down but Denver was the team pushing for the rim and getting the fouls. Nurkic picked up his fifth foul with 6 minutes to go but stayed in and Gallo got a technical foul for arguing about calls he wasn't getting, as the game got exceedingly chippy down the stretch.

The Nuggets big men made their presence felt, contesting shots that turned into transition points by Mudiay and a three by Jokic gave Denver the lead back at 99-98. Harris made a bank shot and some from the stripe but neither team could pull away from the other. A long two from Jokic was countered by a Memphis three. A pair of tired, missed Nuggets shots left Denver down with a minute to go when back-to-back offensive fouls on Harris and Mudiay put the Nuggets in a bind down one.

And that’s when things got crazy. Those two young guards teamed up for a last- second steal to put the Nuggets up one with 7.9 to go. Ennis then threw it away on the in-bounds and the Nuggets took the lead and the ball! Mike Miller, the designated in-bounder, took his designated role but Jokic couldn't handle it (or was fouled without it being called - your choice). Mike Conley took the ball down court, harassed by Mudiay, and wound up throwing the ball away. Replay apparently showed it off Mudiay with .7 seconds to go, though, so Denver had to defend one more play - and they couldn’t do it. Gasol took a lob over a leaping Mudiay (Jokic was not on the court) and threw the ball in to the basket as time expired, and the Nuggets lost a heart-breaker 108-107.

Thoughts:

1) Good energy for the last game of a road trip. Denver came out and played neck-and-neck with the Grizzlies for all 48 minutes. They didn’t have their offensive slump to start the game, and while defense was not a strong suit for either team the Nuggets defended the three point line well (if not the paint). Losing both Nurkic and Jokic for most of the third quarter due to foul trouble hurt, but it wasn’t insurmountable. A couple of other things were.

2) Too many turnovers. Denver finished with 16 fewer shots than Memphis, and that was largely due to the turnover issue. The Nuggets finished with 22 turnovers against 24 assists, and even winning the rebound battle (thanks Faried!) wasn’t enough to turn the tide. Mudiay had 23 points and 7 assists, but his 7 turnovers were detrimental - as were Nurkic’s 6 in 29 minutes. The last one on the Miller-to-Jokic in-bounds was a back breaker (and Jokic’s fault) but even that could have been overcome if not for one thing.

3) Lineup decisions. The last in-bounds for Memphis was unconscionable. Malone’s post-game conference can’t possibly explain why neither Nurkic nor Jokic were on the floor, and Gallo defended the in-bounds - leaving 6’5 Mudiay and 6’7 Faried to defend Gasol on the lob that everyone knew was coming and that Denver had no way to stop.

That about sums it up. Welcome back to Denver, Nuggets. Try not to blow any more games in the last minute for a while, all right?