The Denver Nuggets went into the weekend preparing for a back to back and three games in four nights. They made sure to get off to the right start as they welcomed the Utah Jazz to town and promptly took them to task. Big nights from Trey Lyles and Jamal Murray were the driving force behind what became a blowout in the second half. The Nuggets take care of business before heading to Sacramento and win 99-91.
Jamal Murray opened up the scoring with an impressive behind the back move into a step back to create an open jumper. Murray looked like he was going to make it a point early to be aggressive. He quickly got up to eight points in the first four minutes of the game which gave Denver a slim lead early on. The Nuggets defensive effort was solid early on but they had a couple of careless plays (Gary Harris in particular) which kept the game tight. Harris was pressing a bit, taking some shots that were not high percentage looks. Denver’s bench started to check in but they were cold. Utah seized the momentum and took the lead late in the quarter. The Nugget would hang close but after 1 Utah was up 26-23.
Trey Lyles got it going for the Nuggets to start the second quarter with 8 quick points that fueled a 10-2 run out of the break. The second quarter quickly became the Lyles show which was highlighted by and emphatic and one throw down. Donovan Mitchell and Royce O’neal hit a pair of threes and Favors got a couple points as well to fuel a 9-0 run for the Jazz which got them back the lead. When the quarter passed the four minute mark coach went with a Murray-Harris-Barton-Chandler-Plumlee group that struggled on both ends of the floor. Murray finally got something going for the Nuggets right at the end of the half which effectively saved their bacon. Just like the first quarter, the Nuggets finished the second quarter trailing by 3.
The Nuggets came out sluggish to start the second half until Harris got a steal and a breakaway dunk. The Nuggets started to work the ball inside and found some succes in the paint on offense. The early part of the second half was highlighted by a big time offensive board from Murray who then immediately dribbled to the three point line and buried a jumper to get the Nuggets back in front. After a timeout he came right back with a four point play and then some nice hustle plays by Plumlee and suddenly Denver was up by eight. The Nuggets kept the lead behind their defense as the bench checked in, and as has been the case for a month, Lyles immediately gave them a boost on offense. After an and one from Trey the Nuggets lead had grown to double digits and that’s right when Jokic finally started to get rolling, By the time there was just under four minutes left to go in the third the Nuggets were up by 15. All in all, the Nuggets end up outscoring the Jazz 38-16 in the quarter and led by 19 after three.
Jamal Murray doing it all pic.twitter.com/PD7xoqmKLR— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) January 6, 2018
Lyles opened the final quarter aggressive and continued to be a nightmare for the Jazz but they weren’t going to go down without a fight and rattled off a quick 6-0 run. Harris and Lyles pushed back and Utah wasn’t converting at a high rate on offense which kept Denver’s lead in the high teens as the quarter started getting closer to the end. The Jazz tried to give a last gasp effort but didn’t have enough time to get back and the Nuggets just had too much Murray and Lyles. Nuggets win.
Best matchup: Ricky Rubio vs Jamal Murray
The Jazz used a team effort tonight but Rubio was one of the only guys to be efficient when he had the basketball and didn’t force shots, that being said, the Nuggets did seem somewhat content to let him shoot it. Give credit where credit’s due though, Rubio knocked them down. Where he struggled was defending Murray though who had a couple of those microwave moments and overall got pretty much whatever he wanted offensively. It was another night where Murray showed that if Gary Harris isn’t getting a lot of points for Denver, their backcourt is still extremely potent.
Main thing I noticed: Trey Lyles is really good
Once again it was the Trey Lyles show at the Pepsi Center. He wound up with a career high scoring and as has usually been the case, did it by shooting at an extremely efficient clip. The thing that is impressive about Lyles is there isn’t a lot of flash or blow you away athleticism to his game. He gets his points by having good shot selection and making the most of his opportunities when he gets them. You could tell his confidence was sky high tonight and no doubt it felt great to beat up on his old team. It’s getting to the point where there’s a legitimate argument to be made that the Nuggets were the winners of the Lyles and #24 for #13 trade on draft night.
Closing thought: One last pitch for Stiffs Night Out
TOMORROW NIGHT!!! Get on down to the Celtic on market st to join up with us and some special guests to watch the Nuggets take on the Sacramento Kings. Super mascot Rocky and the Denver Nuggets Dancers will be there plus the Celtic has no cover charge, awesome drink specials and delicious food. Really, there’s no better way to spend a Saturday night in Denver. So get on down to 1400 Market St, Denver CO and join us for the fun!