The Denver Nuggets started their summer league play against the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight and as was to be expected, a sloppy game of basketball beset with turnovers, airballs and sloppiness broke out in true summer league fashion. Despite the overall poor play some players were able to shine, particularly Kris Dunn with Minnesota and Emmanuel Mudiay and Juan Hernangomez for the Nuggets. Despite the best effort of Dunn however, Mudiay and Gary Harris powered a late run for the Nuggets to earn the victory 88-82.
The game opened with T-wolves top pick in the draft Kris Dunn finishing an alley oop followed by a pair of air balls from the Nuggets starting euro pairing of Hernangomez and Petr Cornelie. Dunn continued to attack for Minnesota, giving them the early lead. Denver tried to counter with their new found plethora of shooters but had little luck hitting iron, let alone making baskets. Harris was the most aggressive Nugget on the court, however despite his efforts the T-Wolves opened up a double digit lead by the time the first quarter ended.
The Nuggets opened up the second quarter much stronger than the first and went on a mini run behind Mudiay who getting to the basket but Denver still struggled to contain Minnesota on defense. The T-wolves primarily operated in the paint, particularly Adreian Payne, and were able to score at will which helped to maintain their large lead. However as the quarter drew to a close Mudiay heated up while Dunn cooled off and the Nuggets were able to close the gap to six (also there was a Jimmer Fredette sighting). The teams fought back and forth down the stretch and closed the half with the T-Wolves leading by seven.
Denver opened the second half with good energy as Mudiay and Hernangomez worked a nice two man game together. After Harris nabbed a steal and finished the break with a dunk, Minnesota led by five and called a timeout. Jamal Murray started getting some traction as well and got his shots to fall (he had no FGs in the first half). Dunn countered for Minnesota as both teams found success on offense and the T-wolves kept a slim lead. The Nuggets utilized a lineup of Mudiay-Fredette-Harris-Axel Toupane-Petr Cornelie that got on a run behind Harris and Mudiay who were attacking on offense and defense midway through the quarter before Murray got his opportunity to run the offense as the quarter closed. Dunn and Payne continued to produce for Minnesota who held a slim three point lead after three.
Harris opened up the final frame with a pair of buckets and Mudiay followed with a very nice post up and a jam to finish an alley oop. Denver opened with an 11-0 run in the fourth and seized the lead for the first time in the game which they would not relinquish. Dunn however would not let Denver break the game wide open and midway through the fourth the T-wolves were still within striking distance. The teams drove towards the end of the game relying on the same guys they had all night, Mudiay and Harris for the Nuggets, Payne and Dunn for the Timberwolves. Minnesota started to run out of gas while Hernangomez made a pair of plays and as the end drew near the Nuggets finally put away the Timber Pups.
Via Michael Gallagher of NBC Sports
Best Matchup: Kris Dunn vs Emmanuel Mudiay
Dunn had a phenomenal game and had every bit the look of a top five pick as he nearly reached the thirty point mark. Mudiay wasn't going to be out done though and he definitely looked like a guy with a full year of starting experience in the NBA under his belt playing against a bunch of guys who have barely sniffed the court in the Association, if at all. You could also tell his game continues to improve, his handle, his court awareness, his finishing ability, all look a lot better compared to a year ago. Dunn also had a number of moves that made the crowd ooh and ahh, none more than when he made Jakarr Sampson look absolutely silly on a crossover in the third quarter.
Key thing I noticed: The rookies were nervous but figured it out
It wasn't a stellar opening for either Jamal Murray or Hernangomez. You could tell they were struggling to adjust to the speed of the game and also seemed a bit lost on offense. Hernangomez made up for it with his tenacity on the boards and was rewarded with a near double double for his efforts after his offensive game started going late in the game. Murray forced things early on, trying to gain separation with his step back and settling for long distance off balance shots but he eventually would settle down and start hitting his attempts.
Closing thought: Again, it's summer leagues, keep your shirts on
Boy, the hot takes were out the door the minute Dunn finished that opening alley oop. Though as is usually the case in summer league, neither Dunn (as good as he was, and he was damn good) nor anyone else was mistake free and they all had their share of ugly moments. I don't read very much into Murray's cold shooting to open the game, just rookie jitters. Hernangomez looks like he's definitely got the ability to be a very good player in the NBA, but you can also tell his game has a long way to go as well. Take it for what it is, the first game of summer league.
Boxscore via NBA.com