Well that was something else.
The Nuggets blew out the Raptors, just as we all expected, by a score of 129-111 in a game that was never close.
Jamal Murray lead all scorers with 24 points, and Millsap was second with 20 points as the Nuggets mowed down one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference with an impressive offensive and defensive performance.
The Raptors’ star guards, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, were limited to 19 points on a combined 8-20 shooting performance, with neither seeing the court in the fourth quarter as they watched their squad get smooshed by the awesomeness of Nikola Jokic.
The Nuggets began the game hotter than molten lava. Paul Millsap had 13 of the Nuggets first 15 points, and they jumped out to a 15—6 lead in the first four minutes. The Nuggets halfcourt defense was solid for the remainder of the quarter, and Mudiay continued his hot shooting, knocking in a corner three. They scrapped to a 34-19 lead at the end of the first, holding all the momentum as the reserves took over for the starters.
The Nuggets pushed the lead to 18 on a Faried layup from Mudiay, but the Raptors kept scrapping to cut the lead down to 11 as the reserves ran out of gas through the quarter. Coach Malone called a timeout and the Nuggets had a great out of timeout play that resulted in an alley-oop dunk for Faried.
The most exciting play of the quarter didn’t result in points for Denver. The Nuggets forced a turnover, Mudiay dished ahead to Jokic, and Jokic went fancy on a lob attempt to Chandler that he couldn’t finish - it’s something you’ll want to watch a couple times to wonder what might have been.
Jokic had a dime to Gary Harris that was straight out of last season, and the offense was popping. The team had six turnovers in the first half, managing to take care of the ball against the aggressive Raptors defense. The Nuggets had 18 assists on 23 made field goals, shooting over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent on their 3-point attempts.
The third quarter - way can we say other than wow. The Raptors came into the game with the second best defense in the league. They held Portland to six points in a quarter - in Portland. The Nuggets scored 43 points in the quarter.
Jamal Murray was cooking, dropping threes and flipping in layups. Harris was getting buckets. Will Barton made a few baskets. They had an assist on nearly every made field goal (29 on 37 field goals). Broken plays became wide open jumpers. There was a play where Plumlee, Mudiay, and Chandler each touched the ball twice within six feet of the rim before the ball went through the hoop. It was marvelous to behold.
The fourth quarter began with the Nuggets up 103-71, and the benches were cleared for both teams about halfway through the quarter. Kenneth Faried tossed in a hook shot to breach the 120 point mark, and that was pretty much all she wrote for one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league.
Murray is blooming. This is the type of player the Nuggets were hoping he’d become when they refused to include him in trade discussions for players like Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler. Whether he was driving to the rim, using his athleticism to create space and finish, or dropping in 3-pointers, Murray was unstoppable on offense. But even more impressive to me was his defensive performance, holding Kyle Lowry, an All-Star guard, to 9 points on 4-10 shooting. All rise for the Nuggets young point guard.
Everyone got involved. Paul Millsap got the game going with a blazing hot start, and then the team felt the rhythm and started dancing. No one player (other than Murray) really was that dominant on offense, but the ball was moving and everyone was getting easy looks. Before you knew it, the Nuggets were up by 20, then 25, then 30, peaking at 36 in the third quarter. Twelve players scored for the Nuggets.
Ball. Movement. When the Nuggets offense is clicking, the ball is popping, as Adam Mares likes to say. The Nuggets had 35 assists, a mark they reached just three times last season. Not only were they setting each other up, but they only had 12 turnovers. With that kind of efficiency, it’s going to be difficult to stop the Nuggets, no matter who they are playing.