The Denver Nuggets barely defeated the Detroit Pistons tonight, nearly fumbling away a blowout victory thanks to a huge second half run by the visitors. Alas, Denver held on, earning their 50th win of the season along the way.
Jamal Murray led the way with 33 points in a true rebound game following his dismal four-point performance on Sunday. Nikola Jokic dropped 23-15-2, while Blake Griffin had an outstanding 29-15-5 game for the Pistons.
Still Inconsistent. Denver led by a million points on more than one occasion, and both times the Nuggets got complacent. After the explosive first quarter Detroit climbed back in it but Denver held them at bay. The real tragedy was the second half when the Nuggets decided they didn’t need to try and were outscored 53-29 as a result, nearly blowing the game. Malone will almost certainly have some choice words about this level of effort, which isn’t an encouraging sign at time when Denver needs to be heading towards their peak.
Good First Quarter. In the preview I mentioned that Denver was 24th in the NBA at first quarter defense, but tonight the Nuggets really reversed that trend. Detroit shot a dismal 13% in the entire quarter and only scored nine points. Ok, so a lot of that might have been just bad shooting by the Pistons, but the effort was there. Getting the team to buy in for a full four quarters is now they key.
Jamal Murray Bounces Back. Murray’s up-and-down season is well documented, but tonight was one of the “good” nights - a very positive sign this late in the year. He was nearly unguardable in the first half, shooting 9-12 for 24 points. Best of all, he didn’t really force anything. Most of his shots came in the natural flow of the offense and there were times when he passed instead of taking a bad turnaround fadeaway shot in the paint. Like the rest of the starters, he didn’t do much in the second half save for some very clutch baskets and free throws late in the game which ultimately sealed the deal. Without him stepping up, who knows what might have happened.