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Recap: Denver Nuggets earn a 96-91 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans to close out Summer League

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Summer league is over, on to training camp

Adidas Eurocamp - Day Two Photo by Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images for Adidas

The Denver Nuggets played a truly meaningless game tonight. After being eliminated by the Brooklyn Nets in tournament play in the Las Vegas Summer League, the Nuggets faced off against the New Orleans Pelicans in a consolation game. Their starting lineup which featured stalwarts such as Xavier Johnson and Howard Sant-Roos. Malik Beasley was held out because again...meaningless game. The main highlights on Denver’s active roster were Monte Morris and Torrey Craig. With strong play from Morris, Denver was able to get past Jalen Jones and the Pelicans and secured the victory to close out their trip to Las Vegas.

As one might expect when two teams play their back up summer league rosters, the game got off to a very sloppy start. This was also the last game of summer league so the players who were playing were likely feeling a fair amount of pressure to stand out which meant lots of isolation and bad shot selection. Morris did the bulk of the scoring early for the Nuggets, while Robert Carter Jr didn’t see a shot he didn’t like. Morris was definitely the highlight of the first quarter, he was scoring when the shots were there and setting up his teammates when they weren’t. All in all though, about what you’d expect for the 1st quarter in a game like this, sloppy and selfish. Denver closed out the 1st with a 23-22 lead.

Tyler Lydon and Nikola Radicevic also joined Beasley as in-actives meaning Dallas Moore got to take on the backup point guard duties while Thomas Bropleh got some burn at the forward spot. The Pelicans were finding success from the three point line which got them back out ahead in the second. The Nuggets were keeping pace with hustle, but plays like Petr Cornelie air-balling a hook shot from 6 feet away and Dallas Moore turning it over on a 3-1 fastbreak weren’t doing Denver any favors. Still, it was the Moore show in the second quarter with Sant-Roos chipping in by knocking down some threes. Those two along with Bropleh kept the Nuggets rolling and helped spark a 15-2 run to get a seven point lead with 2 minutes to go in the half. The Pelicans would push back and the Nuggets led after two 46-44.

Morris opened the second half continuing his good play, taking what the defense gave him and making the smart play, just like he did all through college. Johnson and Carter were providing the scoring for Denver who was maintaining a small lead over the Pelicans. Morris looked head and shoulders above anyone else on the Nuggets. He had a particularly nice play where he exploded from the three point line made a spin move and then finished over a taller defender with a floater from the free throw line. Jalen Jones was killing it for New Orleans, getting close to 20 points before the end of the third. Denver kept in front though and after three quarters their lead was six.

The fourth opened much like the rest of the game had unfolded with sloppy play but Morris leading the charge for the Nuggets. Johnson, who’s been fairly terrible this week, had some nice hustle plays but the Pelicans were closing the gap and at the five minute mark of the final quarter they seized the lead 83 to 81. The teams traded garbage three pointers to keep the lead swapping back and forth as the game headed down the final minutes. With the quarter turning into the final minute Denver made some key offensive rebounds and Moore hit a big mid-range shot and then followed that up with a nice driving layup to keep Denver in front. Some free throws iced it and the Nuggets end up with the win 96-91.

Main thing I noticed: Summer League consolation games are terrible

The talent is so low, the game is sloppy because every single guy out there is trying to flash hoping to catch the eye of anyone in an NBA front office. Even the guys who stood out (Morris, Moore, Sant-Roos) weren’t guilt free of playing some sloppy hero ball. It was a tough game to get through and yours truly will be thinking twice before signing up for a gamer on one of these games again.

Best prospect: Monte Morris

I’ve been consistently impressed with Morris over summer league and today was no different. He finished with 17 points on 7/13 shooting and added in 6 dimes. Morris reminds me a lot of Andre Miller with his smart decision making and finishing ability inside the three point line. Obviously this is just summer league and Morris is going to have a long way to go to make it in the actual NBA but he’s definitely shown he is deserving of a spot on the roster, even if it does mean he’s going to spend nearly the entire season in Sioux Falls.

Closing thought: It’s still just Summer League

Lydon looked awful throughout the week. Radicevic was meh and Morris was pretty good. Malik and Juancho scored in bunches, even if it wasn’t the most efficient. Lonzo Ball was awful in his first game, and excellent from there on out. In the end all of it is fairly meaningless. We’ve seen the likes of Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Anthony Randolph tear it up while true stars look less than impressive in Summer League. Don’t read much into it beyond “hey this guy did or did not perform well in Summer League, we’ll see if that translates to the real NBA.”