Jamal Murray came out of the gate hard and never let up, tossing in 29 points and pacing Denver to a big lead in the third quarter. The Miami Heat hit everything from behind the arc, though, going 17-for-33 from 3-point range and they pulled away as Miami ripped this game away from Denver, 92-81. Juancho Hernangomez put in 14 points, 12 rebounds and even a team-high 5 assists as he was everywhere one the court, and Jimmer Fredette tossed in another 18 points to help the cause. Those were the only Nuggets in double figures, though, and Jamal's points came on too many shots (10-for-25).
It was a very entertaining game, however. The Nuggets came out pressuring the perimeter and Hernangomez got the first bucket for Denver. Both teams started cold and awkward, with Denver missing an oop play because the dunker was not on the same page as the passer. Denver was flying around on defense but the score was just 2-2 with 3 minutes gone. Murray hit a bucket but Rudd for Miami hit a pair of threes to snag the lead. Murray replied with a pair of floaters and Jimmer hit a 3 to answer another from Miami and Denver cut the lead to 2, 13-11. Jimmer to JaKarr Sampson inside paid dividends but some sloppy play led to a lot of clanks. Ondrej Balvin banked in a shot to tie it at 19 after one but neither team could be especially happy.
The second quarter was rolling along with more clanks until point guard Josh Adams decided to go throw it down at the rim. He got fouled but it was an impressive effort that had Denver's bench up on their feet. Murrayl then took it to the hole the next time down and hit his free throws to tie it at 25. Miami hit another three (5 for their first 11) because of course they did - it wouldn't be a true Nuggets game unless the opponent hit a bunch of threes. Murray swished a 3-pointer of his own from a couple of feet behind the line though, one of his first truly relaxed shots in Summer League.
See? Nice. His free throws a couple of possessions later put Denver up 32-30. Juancho then gathered in a rebound and made a sweet bank shot during an 11-0 Denver run. Murray and Hernangomez slammed down a couple of dunks in the last 2 minutes of the half and Denver went into the break with a missed Murray 3 and a 5 point lead, 44-39. Murray had 17 points on 6-for-13 shooting in the half, but just one assist and no rebounds. Rounding out his game will take a little time.
Both teams shot under 40% for the first half and came out cold after the break until Jimmer drained a wet 3 from several feet behind the arc. A Toupane dunk and Murray 3 put Denver up 12, 54-42 and everything was looking a little too easy. Miami hit a couple of threes (of course) to drag the lead back down, but it slipped further once Denver's 2016 draftees left the floor. The Nuggets and Heat exchanged baskets for several minutes until a bad bounce and a three took the lead down to just one and a jumper claimed the lead for Miami, who ended the period up 66-65.
Miami opened the fourth with another pair of threes before Denver scored, as the Heat turned up their defensive pressure. In fact, as they extended the lead to 11 it seemed they would never miss a three again. When a team is shooting 50+% from deep it's hard to win. Those makes got under Murray's skin, though, and he started jawing at Damion Lee (a Louisville product).
Murray brought the state of Kentucky rivalry to Summer league, dragged Denver back within 7 and brought life to the building. A floater from Murray and a steal-and-dunk to Toupane cut it to 5 with 2:30 to go. Weber had 5 steals in the game, though, and his last one on Murray led to a bucket and helped stall the comeback. Denver's comeback petered out but not before some entertaining basketball happened.
Forget the overall game aspects for a minute, though - let's talk about the Nuggets draftees.
Murray: Look, the guy can shoot, even if he didn't do so efficiently tonight. He stepped into threes, turned his runners into points, hit his free throws... are we sure this guy is a Nugget? Those aren't Nugget-like habits. The game seemed to slow down for him in this outing, but he was definitely in the groove as a shooting guard. One assist through 3.5 quarters does not a point guard make. Denver needs the scoring, though, so they'll take what Murray has. He's still not showing a lot of burst or a quick first step, but those step-in shots are lethal. That's a good place to start.
Hernangomez: He's a scrapper. He looks a little light but he moves his feet well and has his hand in every passing lane and on every rebound. He plays a bit out of control, but even that feels like it has a purpose. His mistakes come from trying too hard or moving too fast. That's the kind of motor that can make a difference for Denver. He's been a selective shooter over the last couple of games, but he gathers boards in bunches and scores when he decides to (usually off the glass). The justification for sending him back to Europe doesn't come from his game. He can play in the NBA now - and this may be the best place to get his NBA body started so that he can survive all the contact he invites.
Cornelie: Cornelie is the cerebral counterpart to Juancho. Petr showed off his shot-blocking in this game and gathered his own share of rebounds, but unlike in the last contest his shot was missing. He will definitely be going back to Europe but he has plenty of NBA skills and should be back here sooner rather than later. His potential as a slender shot-blocker who can also be a shot-maker is interesting, but finding just the right role for him is going to take some time for both parties.
Jamal stole the headlines, Hernangomez cleaned up everywhere on the court and Jimmer kept his name out there for interested teams. All in all, it was a nice wrap to the three-game Summer League regular season. Now the Nuggets have to figure out where all the pieces fit. Good luck, Mr. Connelly.