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Recap: Nuggets escape Memphis with 103-102 win over Grizzlies

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Jokic’s stand up defense at the end wins the game for Denver

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets opened up their post All-Star break against the Memphis Grizzlies that turned into quite the nail biter. Ultimately, Denver came up strong and held on for the one point win. Nikola Jokic led the way with a solid 28 point, 15 rebound, 7 assist night while both Michael Porter Jr. and Will Barton chipped in 21 apiece.

For the Grizzlies, role players Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke held down the fort. Each had 20 points, while star Ja Morant had just 16 in a quiet effort.

MPJ had a phenomenal first quarter with 9 points and 5 rebounds in the frame. Unfortunately, the rest of the Nuggets (besides Jokic) struggled, and even more so when the subs started coming in. That was the story for the first half - starters good, bench mostly bad. At one point Jokic missed what would’ve been a sick tomahawk dunk but otherwise had a solid first half with 17-7-3 at the intermission, but Denver trailed 55-53.

Nuggets fans everywhere collectively had a heart attack when in the first 30 seconds of the third quarter Jokic tweaked his ankle and limped off of the court. They also had a deep sigh of relief when just a few minutes later he was back on the floor and looked just as good. His return helped repel the Grizzlies’ effort to pull away, and quickly the Nuggets were back on top. Denver ended up winning the third by 12 points, though it would’ve been more had they not let Memphis go on a nice run to end the quarter.

The early parts of the fourth quarter were a brickfest by both bench units. Once the starters came back in Denver built on its lead, but back-to-back threes by Dillon Brooks kept Memphis within striking distance. The two teams traded baskets for a while and in the final 30 seconds Denver held a four point lead thanks to Jokic, until Desmond Bane hit a wide open three out of the timeout. On Denver’s penultimate possession, Jokic took it to Valenciunas but had his floater blocked by Brandon Clarke, leaving Memphis with just enough time to run an ATO for a chance to win.

Ja Morant recieved the pass and drove against Jokic, who went straight up even as Morant fell to the ground. Rodney Mott raised his hand and it looked like the Nuggets were going to suffer the same fate they did against Washington when Bradley Beal won the game with free throws as time expired... but no whistle until Dillon Brooks came pounding into Jokic! Foul on Memphis, game over. Mott was likely indicating verticality on Jokic, but still it was a very bizarre ending.

Overall, a solid W for the Nuggets. Jokic continued his MVP campaign, MPJ looked good on both ends of the floor and Will Barton seems to have regained some confidence. The only real downside was Jamal Murray’s play, which was pretty awful. Murray shot just 1-14 and with three points breaks his 12 game streak of 20+ points. It was a shame his shot wasn’t falling, but he’ll have plenty of time to make up for it, starting tomorrow against Dallas.