The Denver Nuggets put together a nice win on Saturday night, blowing the doors off the Rockets by a score of 129-116.
Jokic finished two rebounds short of a triple-double with 24 points, 12 assists, and 8 rebounds, continuing his MVP season with another efficient night. Michael Porter Jr. was the star tonight though, pouring in a career-high 39 points on 21 shots to lead all players in scoring.
Both teams started hot, each team making their first three field goal attempts. P.J. Dozier made his first three 3-point attempts, a good sign for the former Gamecock guard as he got the start for Will Barton. Jokic had a nice drive for a left-handed layup, and after an Aaron Gordon missed 3-pointer, MPJ got a transition bucket battling against D.J. Wilson. Jokic made his fourth shot of the game over Kelly Olynyk, taking advantage of a defensive breakdown to get off a wide open jumper. MPJ had two consecutive buckets for Denver, the first coming off a nice play out of a timeout, and the second on a strong drive against Wilson. Kenyon Martin Jr. got to the free throw line against JaMychal Green, scoring his first point of the game in the arena where his father used to hoop several years ago. The Rockets started to get back in the game as Green committed a couple turnovers, failing to execute fundamental passes to get Jokic the ball in the post. Rivers had a nasty crossover, getting space for a layup as his defender stumbled backwards off-balance. Green hit a corner 3-pointer off a nice cross-court pass from Campazzo, and the defense got a stop to finish the quarter with a 36-26 lead.
JaVale McGee made a great move along the baseline, beating the Rockets zone defense with a spin move into a dunk. Olynyk got a bogus call on a DHO, and was able to get to the free throw line for three shots. The Nuggets were able to stretch their lead to 13 points after a nice tap-out rebound by Green to Campazzo, who set up Shaquille Harrison for the transition layup. Dozier checked back in the game, and salvaged an offensive possession with a mid-range jumper. MPJ got Denver across the 50-point threshold with a 3-pointer from the wing, and Jokic checked back in with the team holding a 14 point lead. Gordon got his first basket of the game, stepping into a 3-pointer from the right wing that hit nothing but net. MPJ got another 3-pointer, his second of the game, hitting a balanced jump shot off a pass from Campazzo. Olynyk made a couple nice plays, threading the needle on a pass to Wilson for a layup, then beating Gordon off the dribble with a spin move to the basket for a layup. Gordon answered with a nice jumper off a DHO with Jokic, a good play to see as those two players continue to work on their chemistry. Jokic finished the half with a full-court pass from out of bounds after those free throws to Dozier, who dunked the ball home with 0.1 seconds left.
The third quarter continued along the same themes from the second quarter, with the Nuggets placing nice smart offense while getting stops on defense. MPJ got another block, while continuing to shoot really well from the 3-point line. Dozier continued his good night, attacking the rim for a dunk and then getting a shot in the paint to fall. Jokic got called for a charge, and Malone challenged the play, but the call stood after review for his third personal foul. MPJ hit the 30-point mark with a stepback jumpshot off a Jokic pass, on just his seventeenth field goal attempt. The Nuggets offense started to get a little clunky, and the Rockets went on a small run, but Dozier ended it with a free throw jumper. Denver finished the quarter with a 102-82 lead, scoring 30 points to keep them ahead by 20 points.
The Rockets made a couple baskets to start the fourth quarter, with Kenyon Martin Jr. finishing an alley-oop and making a 3-pointer, both of passes from Olynyk. Campazzo went behind the back to Green, who hit his second 3-pointer of the game, but Anthony Lamb answered with a 3-pointer of his own on the other end. Rivers hit another 3-pointer, and JaVale was 0.1 seconds late on a dunk for a shot clock violation. Campazzo picked up his twelfth assist on a nice cut and pass by McGee for a dunk, extending his career high. Porter knocked in his eighth 3-pointer of the game, and got fouled in the process, getting him to 37 points as he clearly was hungry for 40 points. MPJ was subbed out for Bol Bol sitting on 39 points, with Malone clearly not having fun tonight (this is a joke). The Nuggets got a few baskets to close out the game, with the final score reading 129-116.
Three Things I Saw
Good game against a terrible team. With no John Wall or Chistian Wood, the Rockets were sorely lacking talented players capable of competing against the Nuggets. Jokic played about as well as can be expected, but it was nice to see P.J. Dozier have a good game too. The best stats for Dozier? Zero turnovers and three 3-pointers.
Need to get Aaron Gordon going. The Nuggets midseason trade acquisition is probably one of the most unlucky players on the team. He went from a team with no point guards to a team with elite passers, and has seen three of them miss games with injuries to Murray, Morris, and Barton. He’s not on the court for his ballhandling, it’s a secondary skill, but he needs to use the next month to get more comfortable running different plays with the starting lineup.
MPJ on fire! Porter Jr. was making everything tonight. When he takes his time to get off balanced, in rhythm shots, there are few players in the league that can shoot better than him. What a weapon for Denver for now and the next several years.