Maybe a hop across the pond is all the Denver Nuggets needed to get back on track.
The Nuggets came to London to put on a show for international NBA fans, but ended up playing winning basketball in the process. In front of the team’s first (and probably only) home sell-out this year, Denver made the first bucket of the game and never looked back. A close first quarter turned into a huge blowout in the second half, led by an impressive performance by the Denver starters. Nikola Jokic did Nikola Jokic things and controlled the game in the third quarter on his way to a 22 point, 10 rebound and seven assist night (and only one personal foul!), and Denver won easily, dropping 140 points on a usually pretty good defensive team in the Indiana Pacers.
The first quarter belonged to Danilo Gallinari, who looked extremely comfortable being on (almost) European soil. Gallo, who was the recipient of the loudest cheer during the introductions, hit his first three three-pointers and finished the quarter with a game-high 11 points. As a whole, Denver came out strong offensively with 10 first quarter assists but on the defensive end Indiana turned it into a shootout. Jeff Teague had a strong start with eight points and several assists, but Denver remained in control at the end of the first with a 29-28 lead.
The Nuggets bench unit kept the momentum going in the second with several quick buckets by Will Barton and Jamal Murray. Nurkic and Faried also got involved, as Denver grew its lead to eight before C.J. Miles kept Indiana within striking distance. The starters came in and kept building the lead thanks to some crafty Jokic passes, smart cuts and accurate shooting. The Nuggets outscored the Pacers 37-27 in the second quarter, and finished with a highlight reel pass from Jokic to Harris on the leak to end the half up by 11, 67-56.
The second half started off sloppy as both teams turned the ball over frequently, but only Denver was able to take advantage of Indiana’s miscues in the form of a 9-2 run. Jokic took it to Myles Turner a few times, hit a three and then the floodgates opened. Denver’s 11 point halftime lead grew to 20 and quickly stretched to 30 points in third quarter. Everyone got involved from deep and Mudiay had a huge dunk all over Kevin Seraphin, even staring him down afterwards. Simply put, the third quarter was amazing - Denver outscored Indiana by 19 points and put the game away early. After three, it was 106-76.
The fourth quarter was much of the same - lots of offense with the Nuggets remaining firmly in the driver’s seat. It was good to see Juancho Hernangomez, Malik Beasley and even Mike Miller get some burn, and the Nuggets’ business trip resulted in an outstanding performance and a 28-point victory.
Game Notes and Thoughts
- With Darrell Arthur out, Chandler went back to the starting lineup and it paid dividends. This starting lineup with him and Gallo at the 3 and 4 is pretty much unstoppable on offense. The Nuggets’ starters combined for 86 points, 27 rebounds and 27 assists. Excellent job.
- Paul George, who debuted his new shoe line in London this week, was a complete non-factor. He didn’t do anything in the first half save for a three-pointer at the end of the second quarter, and finished the game 2 for 12 with just 10 points in 32 minutes. Pretty rare off-night for him, but I’m not complaining.
- They really couldn’t come up with a better halftime show than the Nuggets’ dunk squad, who missed at least half of its attempts? Color me not impressed.
- That third quarter... my goodness. 39-20 advantage for the Nuggets in that frame, who only missed four shots in the entire quarter. Unbelievable.
- Nikola Jokic #NBAVote
- I wonder how may casual basketball fans watched this game, then checked the Nuggets’ record and were shocked that they were 14-23 heading into tonight. This was certainly a fun game, but kind of a frustrating look at how good this team can be... Hopefully this actually will be a turning point for Denver, but until the Nuggets play like this consistently they still face a long road ahead. Still, this win should boost the team’s confidence and get them headed in the right direction back on American soil.