Hello, friends, and welcome to a game against the Suns, where Jamal Murray is sauteing their defense, a tradition unlike any other!
That’s right, the Nuggets were able to pick up another win over the Suns, with Murray finishing 14 of 17 from the field for 36 points to lead both teams in scoring. Murray had five rebounds and five assists in addition to his six 3-pointers, including an incredible block and coast-to-coast layup in the fourth quarter. Nikola Jokic had 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists, with a couple big buckets in the fourth quarter to help keep the Nuggets a few possessions ahead as the Suns fought late.
DeAndre Ayton had 28 points and 19 rebounds for the Suns, but couldn’t stop Jokic at all on defense. Devin Booker was bottled up by Torrey Craig and Gary Harris, finishing 5 for 16 for 21 points, but couldn’t get anything going in the halfcourt against the Nuggets defensive studs.
The Suns won the opening tip, and started the game off with a basket by Ricky Rubio. The Suns defense wasn’t very stout, and the Nuggets were able to get a bunch of open 3-point attempts, with Torrey Craig and Jamal Murray knocking home some jumpers. Murray was feeling pretty hot to start, making four of his first five shots to quickly pick up 10 points. The Suns were able to reel off a 12-3, with the Nuggets offense unable to convert some midrange jumpers from Gary Harris and Monte Morris.
Paul Millsap checked in for the first time in weeks with about 3:30 left in the quarter, having missed 16 games with a thigh injury. The Nuggets defense had a couple breakdowns, and allowed the Suns to take some wide open shots, with their opponent cracking the 30-point threshold with an Elie Okobo transition laypu with about 2:45 left in the quarter. Keita Bates-Diop saw his first minutes as a Nugget, joining Monte Morris and PJ Dozier on the court with Millsap and Harris. The Suns were able to hang 37 points on the Nuggets, yet another disappointing start for the starting unit.
Millsap got his first basket to start the second quarter, and the reserves were able to get a kill on defense, spurring a run to get the score to 37-36 Suns after the first two minutes. Monte Morris had a nice look from the left corner, but was a bit too strong, and the Suns were able to get out in transition and get Kelly Oubre Jr. a basket. The game had a really fast pace, and Monty Williams brought his starters back early to help prevent the subs from dominating the game. Oubre Jr. had an incredible dunk in transition, driving to the rim and finishing strong with his left hand. Jokic stole an inbounds pass, and Jamal Murray rifled an assist to Morris in the corner for a 3-pointer. The starters had another poor stretch of defense, and Michael Malone had to call a timeout to remind his players to do things like box out after a shot.
The starters continued to turn the ball over, miss shots, and give up dunks, handing all the momentum the reserves built up back over to the Suns. Phoenix rattled off a 14-5 run like it was nothing, with some turnovers the culprit in this spell of bad play for Denver. The Nuggets were able to regroup and rally to close out the quarter, turning up the intensity on defense. They were able to take the lead on a silky shot by Jokic, 55-54, their first lead of the second quarter. The Nuggets 10-0 run allowed them to hold the lead at halftime, an impressive way to close out a half that started poorly.
Both teams started the second half cold, setting up their opponents for a bunch of defensive rebounds. Gary Harris dribbled into a quadruple team and got swatted, and Murray clocked Mikal Bridges trying to create space. Murray was able to crack the seal on the basket with a couple buckets, seemingly being the only player on the court that could do so for a spell. Devin Booker airballed a runner, continuing to show signs of struggle against Harris and Craig when they were defending the Suns almost-All-Star. The Nuggets had two turnovers in a row that lead to wide open dunks for Booker and Oubre, but went back to Jokic to settle things down.
The Nuggets sloppy play continued, with Jokic committing another turnover leading to yet another fastbreak opportunity for the Suns, with Ayton figuring out how to finish a layup after missing a bunny, evening the score at 68 all. The reserves started matriculating onto the court, but that didn’t phase Murray, who continued to just rain fire down on everyone who tried to check him. The young guard had maximum confidence, and just kept hitting every shot he took, helping spring the Nuggets on a small run to take a 80-73 lead. Both teams would trade baskets to close out the quarter, but Denver held on to a 83-78 lead.
Millsap was able to knock down another 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, but the Suns were aggressive, attacking the rim and getting some contributions from their bench. Harris had a really impressive steal against Booker, just muscling the Suns guard to the ground and then picking up the loose ball for a dunk. Millsap was able to draw a foul on an offensive rebound, missed both free throw attempts, but rebounded his miss and flipped the ball in.
The Nuggets were able to steal the ball after a defensive rebound again, taking advantage of DeAndre Ayton’s rock hands to get some points on the board. Jamal Murray had an incredible sequence, ripping the ball out of Ricky Rubio’s hands as the point guard was trying to shoot, then going coast-to-coast, juking out the entire Suns roster on his way to the rim for an off-balanced shot at the rim that he easily converted. Jokic was able to bully Ayton in the post, then found Grant on the next possession for a two-handed jam. Michael Malone had an unsuccessful challenge, but Denver just kept going to Jokic to manufacture points. Murray had a beautiful pocket pass to Jokic, who got up for a two-hand jam that had his teammates flexing at him after the Suns called timeout with 1:35 remaining. The Suns tried their best to keep it close to finish the game, but Monte Morris made his free throws and that was all she wrote.