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Recap: Juancho Hernangomez leads Nuggets to win over Cavaliers

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The third-year forward came off the bench and transformed the team, sparking a blowout road win on the second night of a back to back.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets were able to shake off the chains from Halloween for a blowout win over the Cavaliers, winning 110-91.

They were lead by Juancho Hernangomez, who came off the bench to spark the blowout after a disappointing first quarter, and finished with 23 points to lead the team in scoring.

The Cavs got 17 points from Jordan Clarkson, who lead the team in scoring, but couldn’t keep up at all in the middle two quarters of the game.

Jokic started the game with a layup, scoring on the first possession of the game. The Cavaliers would see the ball go in the hoop more often than the Nuggets after that though, moving the ball around and getting offensive rebounds to jump out to a 12-4 lead. Millsap knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, his fifth of the season, and the two teams started to shake off the opening tip rust. Jokic and Millsap checked out, and the offense started to look better. When Jokic was on the court, everyone just stood around and watched each other; with Plumlee on the court, he and Morris ran pick and roll and created opportunities.

Jordan Clarkson banged in a midrange jumper to stretch the lead to 22-13, and the Nuggets responded by turning the ball over again, their fifth of the quarter. Morris hit a midrange jumper of his own, but the Nuggets offense was too stagnant, and they limped to a 15 point first quarter, their worst quarter of the season.

Trey Lyles shot continues to not fall, and he missed a 3-pointer bad, drilling it into the backboard and missing the rim completely. Jamal Murray got into the paint to finish a layup, and then Lyles scored in transition, and the Cavaliers called timeout with the lead cut down to eight points. That didn’t slow down the Nuggets offense, and they made five of their first six shots to cut the lead down to five. Juancho knocked in two 3-pointers, and the offense was finally popping!

Jokic checked back in with the score 36-33 Cavs, and the rest gave him magic eagle powers, because he was able to block Cedi Osman’s layup. Lyles posted up, beating his defender for a layup. The rest gave Harris magic eagle powers too, and he blocked a corner jumper from Hill AND a layup by Osman. Rodney Hood blocked Harris on the other end, and then Lyles blocked Hood in transition — what a wacky sequence that was.

Juancho stayed out on the court with the starters, for good reason too, because he was balling out. His 3-point shooting stretched the floor, allowing them to call post-ups, and he was active defensively (in a good way). He hit a deep three off a handoff from Jokic, giving the Nuggets a four-point lead and sending Nuggets fans into a blissful dream.

The Nuggets held the Cavaliers without a point for over five minutes before Rodney Hood made some free throws, and they flipped the scoreboard, taking a 50-42 lead into the locker room. They did give up an offensive rebound to Larry Nance Jr. on the final possession, another trademark Nugglife move to give up points at the buzzer.

Craig got his first field goal in the third quarter, crashing the offensive glass for a tip-in. With his jumper shaky, that’s a great way for him to get a couple points each night. Cedi Osman missed a 3-pointer, and the Nuggets defense started racking up stops, increasing the lead little by little. Millsap was getting his buckets too, shaking and backing for a stepback, getting a layup, and sandwiching that stretch with another midrange. Murray baked Osman in the midrange, stretching the lead to 14 with a jumper.

The Nuggets continued to just slay the Cavaliers on defense, getting open midrange jumpers and shots at the rim. You don’t need to be making 3-pointers if you’re getting two points every single trip down the court. The backups started trickling in, and even when the Cavs deflected a pass, it ended up in Morris’s hands and he knocked in a triple.

What was a close game started to turn into a blowout by the end of the third quarter, with the Nuggets outscoring the Cavaliers 68-39 since that pooptastic first quarter. After the starters had a negative plus/minus in the first half, every single player on the team was a positive by the end of the third quarter. More importantly, they looked like they were having fun out there again, and when the Nuggets have fun, they score a lot of points.

Juancho Hernangomez started the fourth quarter, attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line to get his fifteenth point on the evening. The starters were able to get comfortable on the bench, with the lead getting over 20 points while the reserves took the game home. Malik Beasley had another big dunk, Plumlee got revenge on Nance Jr. for last year’s poster with a rejection at the rim, and the game was over long before the clock read zero.

Three takeaways

How can you not love Juancho Hernangomez? The Spaniard ignited the offense in the second quarter, knocking in three 3-pointers and finally giving the team the floor spacing they desperately need to get their offense clicking. He was active on defense, moving his feet and block a shot at the rim again. He was all over the court whenever he was on the court, and took full advantage of the mismatches he created on the floor. He was active moving around screens on offense, slicing up the Cavs defense with his off-ball motion. A great game for him, and a statement that he doesn’t deserve to earn DNP’s in the future.

The starters lack chemistry. It’s not that they are individually bad players, because they’re not. But with Craig in there for Barton, they look uncomfortable. They spent all offseason preparing to play out there with Barton, and Craig has such a different set of skills. Jokicball really relies on the players feeling where to go, not just knowing where to go. Harris and Murray have been in a shooting slump, which hurts, but I think the biggest issue is they’re not grooving together. Y’all know what I’m talking about.

Nuggets still need shooting. As good as the Nuggets offense was, things didn’t open up until Juancho started spitting fire from the perimeter. Jamal Murray and Gary Harris finished 1 for 6 on 3-point attempts. Lyles missed all three of his 3-point attempts. Beasley went 1 for 3 on his 3-point attempts. Monte Morris made his one 3-pointer, but he’s more of a distributor instead of a scorer.

Let’s get the players to huddle up with Mark Price and get some work in on those jumpers. That’ll unlock Jokicball as they continue to cruise and vibe with more experience.