The Denver Nuggets soundly defeated the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, 106-62, with Jimmer Fredette leading the charge with 26 points on 50 percent shooting.
The Nuggets had three other players finish in double digits for points, with Petr Cornelie (19), Jakarr Sampson (16) and Axel Toupane (10) making their presence felt. Wade Baldwin IV was the only Grizzlies player to score in double figures, with 10 points, on an inefficient 2 for 10 performance.
The Nuggets and Grizzlies started off the game in an unusual for Summer League fashion, with both teams managing to run competent offense. Fredette started opposite Jamal Murray, and got started early with a transition bucket. The Nuggets bigs were active as well, grabbing rebounds on offense and defense. The teams finished the quarter tied at 28 with some of the reserves seeing the floor for the first time.
In the second quarter, Micah Nori put Axel Toupane and Jakarr Sampson in the game, and the Nuggets defense locked in to power a huge run. The two wings weren't allowing the Grizzlies any space for passing lanes, skying to snare passes out of the air and stripping the ball from players when they would drive into the paint. On the other end, Fredette and Petr Cornelie were dropping in shots from behind the arc to pad the Nuggets lead.
The Nuggets won the second quarter 37-10, and shot 61 percent from the field in the first half on 41 field goal attempts. The Nuggets had a 13:5 assist to turnover ratio, while the Grizzlies were stuck at a 7:7 ratio. Fredette lead all scorers with 19, and showed no signs of slowing down once the third quarter began.
Fredette came out strong after halftime, making good decisions with the ball on offense. On the other side, Murray struggled against Andrew Harrison, a former Kentucky Wildcat himself, who smothered him when he was off-ball and disrupted his rhythm when Murray had the ball in his hands. While Murray's shot wasn't falling, he stayed engaged in the game by working for rebounds and creating for his teammates, finishing with six total boards and four assists in 24 minutes.
The fourth quarter was great for local college basketball fans, with Josh Scott, Antwan Scott and Josh Adams sharing the court together. Darius Carter got the Nuggets to 100 points with a layup, pushing the lead to 41 points. The two teams would take turns causing damage to the rims with the basketball, until the clock wound down to all zeroes.
The Nuggets nearly broke two Summer League records in the blowout victory. The record for most points scored in a Summer League game belongs to the Denver Nuggets, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers 120-88 in 2007. The largest margin of victory was the Houston Rockets winning 106-56 over the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012.
JIMMER! Summer League was created for guys like Jimmer, who is too good for this level of competition but probably not quite good enough to be a NBA player (shoutout to Adam Mares for that scouting report). He was knocking down 3-pointers when the Grizzlies young guys were foolish enough to leave him open, and then taking them to the rim when they would close out too aggressively. I am fully prepared for Nuggets fans to anoint him as the latest third/fourth point guard that definitely should be on the team, taking the mantle from Erick Green.
Jamal Murray is a 19-year-old. There shouldn't be any reason to panic over Murray's struggles. Andrew Harrison locked him up, but Harrison has more experience and size than the Nuggets new shooting guard. What was important for me that while Murray's shot wasn't falling, he didn't check out of the game. He needs to improve in nearly every asset of the game, but the tools are there. If you are worried, please consult the cover to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and don't forget your towel.
Axel Toupane needs a roster spot. If Toupane is able to keep up the level of play he's demonstrated over the first two Summer League games, Toupane deserves to be on the opening day roster. He's in a difficult position, having to compete for minutes on the wing, but he has a lot of potential. He showed off an impressive handle at times in the game, a skill I did not know he possessed. He made nice passes, shot the ball well, and was fierce on defense. He had the second highest plus/minus on the team behind Jimmer, and played the second most minutes. He deserved every second he got, and left me very impressed.
Here are the official statistics from tonight's game, courtesy of the NBA.