The Denver Nuggets had to get to work early today with an afternoon matchup against the Sacramento Kings. It wouldn’t affect their game and they would ride yet another Nikola Jokic triple double on the way to victory. Denver also got big performances from Gary Harris and Jamal Murray in one of their biggest blowouts of the season. By the time the 4th quarter started this one was a laugher, and the Nuggets would wind up wining 130-104.
The Nuggets had the two man game with Jokic and Murray working early on and built a small lead. Unfortunately Denver struggled early on with open shots which prevented them from blowing the lead wide open. The Kings were struggling from the field as well so Denver kept in front but the number of layups and free throws they were missing was concerning. Eventually things would settle down and Jokic operated as a distributor to find his teammates for open looks which they started hitting. He made a couple of his own as well and by the time the first quarter ended the Nuggets held a 32-25 lead.
The Kings countered in the second quarter, opening on an 8-4 run behind some timely shooting from Buddy Hield. After a timeout, the Nuggets pushed back. They found success by giving the ball to Mason Plumlee at the top of the key and then having players cut to the basket off that. Wilson Chandler and Trey Lyles were both beneficiaries of this strategy. When the Nuggets starters came back in they still held a seven point lead (despite some truly abysmal free throw shooting). Jokic led an immediate run for Denver and the other starters quickly started chipping in as well as Denver’s lead grew to double figures. Jokic continued putting on a show, at one point delivering a beautiful pass to Murray after no fewer than four pivots in the post. De’Aaron Fox would knock down a pull up right at the end of the half but the Nuggets had still built a sizable lead and went to the locker room up seventeen.
Nikola Jokic got the whole city of Sacramento fooled pic.twitter.com/dpp08iKibq— Wobibrow (@World_Wide_Wob) March 11, 2018
Denver’s back court got a pair of threes to open the second half and get the lead above twenty and it started to look like the Kings were already ready to let Denver have it. The Nuggets starters kept pushing the lead and the Kings began to relent. Jokic found Harris cutting to the hoop for an easy slam and with the flush the Nuggets lead had grown to thirty. Coach Malone stuck with his starters for extended time, likely trying to give them the whole fourth quarter off. By the time Denver’s reserves started to check in in the third quarter the Nuggets were up 95-62. Jokic would secure a triple double with about a minute and a half to go in the quarter and all signs pointed to a full fourth quarter of garbage ball.
Jokic ➡️ Harris #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/mn9dqiDPQs— NBA (@NBA) March 11, 2018
As one might have expected, the Nuggets were a little flat going into the final quarter. The Kings though were entirely disinterested in playing basketball at this point so while they got out on a 9-5 run, there still was very little momentum on their side. Oddly, coach Malone took all of his starters out before the fourth quarter started with the exception of Harris. For whatever reason, coach left Gary out there until there was 4:48 left in the game when Richard Jefferson finally checked in. The Nuggets bench played out the fourth with varying energy but the lead was too great for the Kings to overcome. The crowd broke out into a brief chant of “Manimal, Manimal” but Malone would not give them what they wanted and elected to keep Kenneth Faried on the bench. Denver would ultimately close out the blowout and take the victory by twenty-six points.
Best matchup: Bigs vs Bigs
The Kings didn’t have a lot going on tonight but one area they were getting points was in the paint from Kosta Koufos and Zach Randolph. Obviously Sacramento wasn’t drawing up a lot, if any, plays for either of their big men but they made the most of the opportunities that came to them. Meanwhile Jokic had a very Jokic game, filling up the stat sheet by doing a little bit of everything and getting a triple double in the process. Millsap also played well even if there were some moments where he still looked rusty operating within Denver’s offense. All in all though its two games in a row where Jokic has looked back to his old self with Millsap in the lineup and that is a huge positive heading down the stretch.
Main thing I noticed: Nuggets took care of business
Early day game plus daylight savings time change? Easy to see how the Nuggets could have come sleeping to the arena but that was not the case. There was a little rust to start the game but Denver quickly found their groove and got to the business of taking an inferior team to the woodshed. I can’t remember the last time the Nuggets opened a 4th quarter already in garbage time but it certainly was a refreshing change of pace. The other nice part about the game was Denver built a lead in the first half and unlike we’ve seen all too often in the past, they didn’t come out flat in the third and give up their lead. In fact they did quite the opposite, outscoring the Kings by 16 points in the third and putting the game out of reach.
Closing thought: One last big shoutout to everyone who donated to our HopeKids event.
Once again we just want to say how appreciative we are of everyone who donated to our HopeKids charity event. We were able to send hundreds of kids to the game plus make a nice donation to the HopeKids organization. It’s really the first time we’ve used the Stiffs platform to give back to the community and we couldn’t be prouder of our community! YOU GUYS ROCK!! Thanks again from everyone here at the Stiffs, all the kids had a blast!