It was a tale of two halves tonight for the Denver Nuggets. In the first, it was relatively slow, sluggish basketball while the Kings shot lights out. Then, Jamal Murray happened. The Blue Arrow dropped the hammer on Sacramento with 34 second-half points to propel Denver to a 117-113 road victory. Nikola Jokic also had a nice 26-13-6 night as the Nuggets notched their 25th win of the season.
Coach Malone elected to keep the starting lineup in tact with Mason Plumlee at the four and Torrey Craig at shooting guard, despite having a healthy Paul Millsap and Gary Harris. The results were problematic - clunky offense, forced turnovers and poor defense. Nikola Jokic made some bunny layups, but on the other end Nemanja Bjelica was red hot early on by connecting on some open threes.
Harris checked in and hit consecutive threes, and Jokic had a steal and fast break dunk (!!) as a result. Denver ended up with 11 FTA in the first quarter, and ended the period tied with Sacramento at 30.
Nikola Jokic rumbles down the lane for his fourth dunk of the season. pic.twitter.com/2NBjxsuiK5— Harrison Wind (@HarrisonWind) January 4, 2019
Bogdan Bogdanovic went on a personal 6-0 run to start the second, before Millsap countered with four of his own. Denver’s bench struggled overall and scored just four more points overall before Jokic came in. Not that he was able to help much - the Kings were able to score at will while Denver struggled to hit anything, free throws included. At half, the Nuggets found themselves down 66-53 and without much momentum.
Jamal Murray got the message at halftime by hitting back-to-back threes to spark a 13-0 Nuggets run. The Kings were cold but weathered the storm as Denver couldn’t quite the lead. Murray stayed hot - 17 third quarter points - but Sacramento had a counter every single time. The two teams traded points back and forth, and Monte Morris drained a three to put Denver up but just as quick the points were surrendered. Bjelica almost drained a buzzer beating three but fortunately didn’t get it off in time.
Murray opened the fourth with another three, Beasley hit a nice jumper and it seemed like Denver would be in position to put the Kings away. Sacramento knocked on the door for a hot second, but once Jokic and Harris checked in the Nuggets slipped away to a 10-point lead. If only it were that easy though - Buddy Hield raked Jokic across the arms to grab an offensive rebound then drained a corner three, then drained two more for good measure.
The last two minutes belonged to Jamal Murray, though. The Blue Arrow hit a huge step-back three to beat the shot clock, then drilled another one to extend Denver’s lead. Free throws sealed the game and Denver escaped with the win, 117-113.
Game Notes and Thoughts
- It’s time for Millsap and Harris to get back into the starting lineup. Offensively this lineup is clunky as Plumlee and Craig don’t provide any spacing, and defensively it’s not working out either. Before tonight’s game, the Murray-Craig-Juancho-Plumlee-Jokic lineup had a net rating of -9.8 in 120 minutes, which isn’t good. If it weren’t for Jamal Murray’s spectacular second half that group would’ve looked even worse overall.
- Does anything more need to be said about Jamal Murray? Just two points in the first half and looking like an off night, then exploding for 34 second half points and hitting some BIG shots down the stretch. He missed some free throws but certainly no reason to worry, not with the cajones that this guy has.
- Like Denver, Sacramento is young and they are going to be a good team in years to come. De’Aaron Fox had some nice plays, Buddy Hield dropped 29 and Bogdan Bogdanovic had some killer threes. Fun team, fun game.
- Denver is 25-11, officially the best start in Nuggets history. We’re a part of history! This team is special - let’s keep those W’s going and the streaking alive!