This was a game that the Nuggets needed to win more badly than a fish needs to be in the water to survive. Thankfully, they had a big night from their reserves to help secure the victory and improve to 15-5 at home.
Trey Lyles had 16 points off the bench for the Nuggets, helping lead the second unit to 31 of the Nuggets 87 points on the evening. Kenneth Faried also had a nice evening in his first action in a while, with four points, six rebounds, and three steals in 15 minutes.
The Nuggets offense forgot that the game started at 7:00 PM MT (should have read the preview) and they went 5 for 21 in the first 12 minutes of the game. Wilson Chandler had the first field goal for the Nuggets, and the second, and that was nearly half of the team’s field goals in the quarter.
The Grizzlies went on a 15-0 run in the quarter, and the Nuggets subbed in Kenneth Faried and Richard Jefferson to help try to provide a spark. Faried was vocal on defense, and active in the paint, registering two steals that helped the team get some stops. The Nuggets ended the quarter with a few buckets, and it was 26-16 for the Grizzlies after one.
The Nuggets offense picked up in the second quarter, with the team beginning to knock down a few 3-pointers to help close the lead. Faried scored on a dive to the rim after setting a screen for Will Barton, and then Barton knocked home a 3-pointer a few possessions later to tie the game at 38. The Grizzlies responded with a run of their own, which the Nuggets answered to go into halftime down four, 47-43.
Jokic had three fouls in the first half, and only played fourteen minutes. Jokic’s absence may have contributed to their struggles on offense, as the team shot just 36 percent from the field. The Nuggets struggled to figure out the Grizzlies physical defense, but Trey Lyles had some success attacking the rim and finished with seven points in the half.
The Nuggets played much better defense in the third quarter, increasing their energy level and contesting more shots. Gasol was working against the Nuggets bigs in the post, and Plumlee picked up his fourth foul of the game. Lyles checked in for Plumlee, and the Nuggets started playing much better, with Lyles mobility giving Gasol problems.
The Nuggets have gotten into the penalty in the first 6:30 of both the 2nd and 3rd quarters.— Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares) January 13, 2018
The Nuggets were able to get to the free throw line again in this quarter, and it helped them take the lead, despite being 6 for 20 on 3-point attempts after three quarters. Jokic had a Jokic-pass to Chandler that lead to a dunk, and the Nuggets had their second lead of the game. Kenneth Faried had a great defensive play, stealing the ball from James Ennis, and Malik Beasley drew a foul on a 3-point attempt on the other end. They held Memphis to 13 points in the quarter, and took a seven point lead into the fourth quarter.
Lyles had a tip-in, and Jefferson knocked down a midrange jumper, and the Nuggets started the fourth quarter on a good note. Gasol checked in with about nine minutes remaining, the Grizzlies only hope to win this game resting on the Spaniard’s shoulders. Faried beat Gasol to the rim on a drive, finishing with his right hand to give the Nuggets a nine point lead.
Beasley made a great play off a dribble handoff, catching the ball from Plumlee and throwing it up to him for an alley-oop after Gasol committed to Beasley near the free throw line. That’s the kind of playmaking that Beasley will have to continue to develop if he’s going to have a bigger role with the Nuggets in the future.
Only one lineup hasn't worked tonight. The Nuggets appear to be closing with it...— Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares) January 13, 2018
Malone subbed Lyles out with 5:18 remaining and a 79-68 lead, and the Nuggets offense ground to a halt. After three minutes, the Grizzlies had only cut the lead to ten, but the Nuggets looked all out of sorts on offense. Lyles checked back in after a timeout with 2:08 remaining, and the Nuggets immediately scored with Barton finishing a wide open dunk. That would be Denver’s final field goal of the game, with both teams bricking their way to the final buzzer.