The Denver Nuggets came into today’s game losing three of their last four and looking to turn the tides on their east coast road trip. In their way stood the Brooklyn Nets who are one of the most injury riddled rosters in the league. Despite not having their stars, the Nets got a big game out of Spencer Dinwiddie and dominated the game from the paint. The Nuggets got another good night scoring from Nikola Jokic as well as Jamal Murray but didn’t quite have enough and lose this one in the final moments 105-102.
Neither team came out very hot to start the game, but the Nuggets in particular were cold, starting out 0-4 which allowed Brooklyn a 7-0 run. Denver finally got a couple of buckets but still couldn’t string together enough solid possessions on offense to pull back even with the Nets. Jokic was having a strong effort offensively, dishing assists and getting points in the paint which kept the Nuggets in striking distance with the quarter half over. The backcourt started chipping in after that with Murray and Gary Harris both knocking down threes and forcing a Nets timeout. Both coaches went to their benches and neither gained an immediate upper hand. Murray stayed in and carried the load offensively keeping the Nuggets trailing by just four at the end of the first.
The second quarter started with the defensive intensity still high even though the benches were in, each team had just one bucket in the first two minutes. Jerami Grant gave the Nuggets a bunch of energy on both sides of the court and nailed a three to pull Denver within one. The starters came back in and continued to play solid defense keeping the Nuggets within a point but they couldn’t capture the lead. The Nets starters found their stride around the midway point of the quarter and rattled off a 7-0 run before Murray ended it with a three. With the quarter winding down the whistles got really heavy, neither team missed from the line and the Nets stayed in front by a handful. The defense went to the wayside right at the end of the quarter but Jokic was getting buckets and Murray hit a buzzer beater three to give the Nuggets their first lead of the game at 54-53.
Jokic and Harris got a pair of buckets to open the second half but Brooklyn was getting whatever they wanted inside and were able to retake the lead. Paul Millsap also contributed on the offensive end with a pair of buckets which kept the Nuggets on pace with the Nets interior assault. The Nuggets offense stalled just before the midway mark of the quarter but their defense didn’t pick up any and Brooklyn’s lead grew behind their layup line. When Denver finally did find a way to slow down the Nets they went ice cold from the floor and were unable to get the lead. Denver was struggling from three in particular which resulted in a lot of short possessions and long rebounds for the Nets. The Nuggets had just enough offense (including a fortuitous bounce on a Mason Plumlee jumper) to hang on with the Nets getting everything inside. Still, Denver trailed by five going into the final quarter
Jerami Grant, who had struggled all night from three, knocked down back to back shots from outside at the beginning of the fourth to give the Nuggets the lead. Monte Morris got going a bit and knocked down back to back threes of his own to tie the game with about eight minutes left. Grant hit another three after that but both teams started to struggle a bit offensively while Denver maintained a small lead. Denver really had a hard time getting shots to fall with the exception of Grant who kept them in front with another three with four minutes to go. Both teams went back and forth with the game winding down leading to a final two minutes with the game tied. The teams traded baskets down to the final possession where the Nets had a one point lead and Taurean Prince at the line. He hit both and Murray was unable to hit a long three at the buzzer giving the Nets the 105-102 victory.
Best matchup: Jamal Murray vs Spencer Dinwiddie
Dinwiddie and Murray provided big offense for their teams tonight. Murray had his shot going from mid range and three point range while Dinwiddie got to the basket at will for layups. Brooklyn was the first team in awhile to exploit the Nuggets lack of a shotblocker and no one was better at it tonight than Dinwiddie, including some huge baskets late where he basically walked to the rim. Murray wasn’t able to do much to slow down Spencer on defense but he had an efficient night scoring and did a decent job of playmaking as well. Unfortunately he just couldn’t get that signature moment and hit the three at the end of the game.
Main thing I noticed: the Nuggets bench was great
The Nuggets starters didn’t have an A+ game. Murray was solid and Jokic built on his good game against Boston but the rest of the starters didn’t provide a ton on either side of the court. The bench however was phenomenal. Grant struggled early on from three but then got red hot and kept the Nuggets in the fourth quarter almost single handed. Morris also had some big moments while the bench unit as a whole was at least giving the Nuggets something in the way of defense and rim protection. While Denver ends up with the loss, their bench play is one of the small victories they can take from the game.
Closing thought: have to find a way to win in Philly
The loss to the Nets should put the Nuggets in desperation mode. They’ve now lost four of their last five games and are 1-2 on the road trip. They’ve got one more game left and that’s in Philadelphia where the 76ers are undefeated and looking for revenge. The Nuggets are going to have to find a way to win in these difficult circumstances. They’ve been able to weather some early storms and have a great record to show for it but with the underlying issues a change in momentum could really have a big swing in the standings. A statement road win is just what this team needs right now.