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Recap: Nuggets dominated by the Hornets to begin their road stretch

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Sigh.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets were dominated tonight to the final score of 110-93 by the Charlotte Hornets. Nikola Jokic had 18 points and 11 rebounds on 8/11 shooting. Gary Harris also had 18 points after struggling to begin the game. Those were Denver’s two bright spots. The team shot 37.8 % from the field, and they couldn’t defend anyone.

The starters for the Nuggets stayed the same with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic. For the Hornets, Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, and Dwight Howard made up the ensemble.

Jamal Murray came out attacking the rim out of the pick and roll to start the first quarter, and he made three quick shots to pace the team at the start. Down low, Howard picked up two quick fouls, one offensive and one defensive, against Jokic. Unfortunately for Jokic, Howard went back at him on the offensive glass and had two nice put-backs. Gary Harris and Wilson Chandler also continued to struggle, combining to go 0/4 from the field to begin the game.

As the Nuggets bench lineup entered the fray, the defense and offense crumbled a bit. Bench shooters in Johnny O’Bryant and Frank Kaminsky gave the Nuggets’ bigs a bit of trouble. On offense, the ball found Emmanuel Mudiay and Mason Plumlee a bit too much with players like Will Barton, Millsap, and Jokic on the floor. Fortunately for Denver, Jokic hit a long three at the buzzer to cut the deficit to 27-23 after one quarter.

To begin the second quarter, the Nuggets couldn’t guard Malik Monk, and they couldn’t make layups. Barton air-mailed a three, and Mudiay was just...wretched. He couldn’t contain players off the dribble, he had poor turnovers, and he didn’t make the shots he was supposed to make. The rest of the team wasn’t shooting well either. The only three players that looked NBA caliber during the first half were Murray, Millsap, and Jokic.

I refuse to write more about the first half other than that.

The second half began with a Jokic bucket, but beyond that, there wasn’t much to like. A Jokic travel, Harris misses, poor Murray defense, and good execution by the Hornets made this a non-contest quickly. Chandler air-balled a contested three in transition, which basically sums up the offense at this point.

Jokic continued to play well, but the world around him was falling apart. That’s basically the third quarter in a nutshell. Harris had a nice dunk in transition and started heating up from beyond the arc. Cool. Nuggets down 17 at the end of the third quarter.

After coming within 11 points of the Hornets, Mudiay made sure to change that on both ends with poor decision making. Even when he left, the rest of the Nuggets were no better. Will Barton struggled all game. Paul Millsap struggled for most of the game. This was awful to watch all the way around. Final score: Charlotte 110 - Denver 93.

Three takeaways:

The offense looks awful, and it’s everyone’s fault. It doesn’t help that Chris Finch left and that the team is trying to incorporate an All-Star, but this offense is terrible. The best player is Nikola Jokic, and his usage rate through three games was the 7th highest on the team. His assist rate has improved, but frankly, the Nuggets don’t have enough quality scorers for Jokic to be giving up moderately difficult shots. Millsap has be fine individually, but everything looks disjointed as teammates try and read/react off of his play style. Jamal Murray has not been good as a shot maker, and he needs to be for the offense to work. Gary Harris and Wilson Chandler have been affected the most, and while Harris has had his moments, Chandler is slumping HARD to begin the year. Even worse has been...

Emmanuel Mudiay doesn’t look like an NBA player this year. He’s had games where the ball has gone in the basket, but his decision making is poor, his defense leaves way too much to be desired at this point, and it’s getting to the point where a roster move seems like the only viable solution. He was 0/8 in this game being defended by Malik Monk. I’m done watching Emmanuel Mudiay.

Nikola Jokic needs to shoot more, regardless of the result. 11 field goal attempts, eight makes. 18 points and 11 rebounds for Jokic, which is a nice night. It has to be more. He’s clearly the best player on the team, and before the night, he had the seventh highest usage rate. That needs to change. On nights like these, where only Jokic can throw a pea in the ocean, he needs to put it up at least 20 times. I frankly could care less what he or Malone thinks about his apparent “role” because so far it hasn’t worked. If he shoots and scores, the assists will come. Get that man the damn basketball.