The Denver Nuggets started their matchup with the Charlotte Hornets with Nikola Jokic drawing a quick foul on Bismack Biyombo and converting the free throws before they gave up a deep triple with the shot clock expiring. Denver had a pair of empty possessions while giving up a layup to Jalen McDaniels before Aaron Gordon got inside for a pair of buckets to get their lead back 6-5.
Denver kept their 6-0 run going with a dunk by Michael Porter Jr. from Austin Rivers. A steal by Facundo Campazzo turned into two points for Jokic and a timeout from the Hornets. Out of the timeout, McDaniels stopped the run at eight straight points, and he added another quick bucket on the next possession before Jokic got them back with a hook shot in the lane.
Jokic got two more with a layup driving past Biyombo. Following a Charlotte miss, Porter drained a triple off an inbounds pass, and the Nuggets were now leading by eight with 6:33 remaining. Gordon tipped in a miss from Campazzo which gave Denver a double-digit lead with just over 6:00 remaining. P.J. Washington knocked down a pair of free throws after being fouled by Campazzo, but Jokic hit Rivers for a corner triple on a slick crosscourt feed.
Jokic and Biyombo traded buckets before Campazzo hit porter for another triple which had Denver’s lead up to 14 with seven of the team’s 27 points coming off of turnovers. MPJ hit his third 3-pointer of the quarter, and they were up by 17 which prompted Charlotte’s second timeout of the first quarter. Out of the timeout, Monte Morris was in the game after missing several in a row. Porter hit a stepback triple after Cody Zeller flew by, and the lead was up to 20 before a Zeller layup broke Charlotte’s dry spell.
Morris found JaMychal Green in the corner for a 3-pointer before Devonte’ Graham hit one of his own. Porter’s 20-foot jumper was good, and he was up to 16 points on the night before a layup from Graham rolled in. LaMelo Ball hit a nifty layup for his first two points of the night with just under a minute remaining. What was once a 20 point lead fell to just 14 after a pair of empty possessions and a layup from Charlotte. Graham was fouled with one second remaining, and he hit both free throws which made the lead just 12 heading into the second quarter.
Zeller scored two out of the quarter break, and the Denver lead was down to just 10 before a Millsap floater put Denver back into the scoring column. Malik Monk poured in a triple, and the Hornets were back within single digits. Millsap got a grown man bucket after taking advantage of the smaller man in Graham. The Hornets scored two more inside, and a bucket from McDaniels had the Hornets within seven. Coming out of a Nuggets’ timeout, Millsap was fouled while banking home a jumper, but he was unable to convert the 3-point play.
Going the other way, Monk was fouled on a reverse layup, but he did convert the 3-point play at the line which had Charlotte within six. The two sides traded empty possessions before Morris got to the cup for a layup over a bigger defender. Charlotte scored a pair of buckets sandwiched around a triple from Denver which had them within seven before a Terry Rozier bucket brought them within five with 6:17 remaining.
Coming out of a Denver timeout, the two sides traded a couple of quiet minutes before a Graham triple had Charlotte within two. A Porter jumper gave Denver a little bit of breathing room, but a dunk from Washington got them right back. Jokic went 1-of-2 at the line, but a layup from Graham had Charlotte within one before Porter got those right back. Porter hit a triple which gave him his 23rd point of the night in transition. Jokic hit a pair of free throws to get Denver up to an eight-point lead with 2:30 remaining.
A near-goaltending against Charlotte turned into two points when Denver’s defense was left in scramble mode. Jokic went to the line with 1:31 remaining where he knocked down both shots, but Washington got them right back with a layup. A transition dunk from Washington had Charlotte within four with less than a minute remaining. Rozier was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 10.3 remaining, and he hit all three free throws to bring the Hornets within one. Gordon hit a jumper with the clock expiring, and Denver was leading 63-60 after leading by as many as 20.
Coming out of halftime, Washington was at the line again where he went 1-of-2. On the other end, Jokic took his own trip to the charity stripe where he went 2-of-2 before forcing a miss out of Ball in transition. Gordon followed up an airball from Washington with a huge dunk that got him into double figures on the night. Denver gave up a transition bucket after failing to take advantage of a turnover by Charlotte, but Gordon drained a triple from the wing to stretch the lead to seven. Hornets’ coach James Borrego was called for a double technical and ejected from the game. Jokic hit both free throws to get the lead up to nine.
Ball was then called for a technical foul of his own after shoving the arm of a referee, and the entire Charlotte sideline was letting the refs hear about it while Jokic put the lead up to 10. Rozier hit a triple from the corner before Jokic hit a fadeaway jumper. Ball hit a pair of shots at the line. Denver had a pair of open opportunities from 3-point range, but they were unable to convert either of them before Biyombo threw down a big dunk before Gordon got one of his own.
The Hornets got a quick four points out of a timeout, and Denver quickly called a timeout of their own. Monk knocked down a 15-foot jumper to bring them within one before Porter hit one of his own. Washington got a layup to fall, and the two sides were trading buckets in a flurry. Rivers got to the bucket for a layup after blowing past his defender before hitting a transition 3-pointer off of a steal from Porter which had the lead back up to six before a turnover became a free two points for Rozier.
Harrison went 1-of-2 at the line before tipping a ball out of bounds on Charlotte to get the ball back to Denver. Jokic had a perfect trip at the charity stripe, but a turnover on Denver’s next possession gave Rozier an easy layup. A shot from Jokic rimmed out before Zeller’s layup got the Hornets within three which Jokic got right back to stretch the lead to five before heading to the bench with 1:13 to go. Charlotte quickly got two points, but Green wiped those away almost immediately.
Denver got the ball away from Charlotte, but Harrison was called for a charge when Rozier was able to get back in transition. Millsap got a steal on Ball with the clock winding down, but they were unable to turn the extra possession into any points, and they were leading by five heading into the final quarter.
Green was sent to the free-throw line with under 11 minutes remaining after the two sides went scoreless for the first 60 seconds where he went a perfect 2-of-2. He followed that up with a huge block of Graham before Harrison was fouled in transition. Porter poured in another triple to get Denver’s lead back up to double digits for the first time in a long time. Ball went 1-of-2 at the line, but the Nuggets weren’t getting much offensively outside of Porter. Green had another trip at the line where he was flawless.
Coming out of a Charlotte timeout, they were unable to score, but Campazzo got to the rim for his first two points of the night. The two sides traded turnovers before McDaniels cashed a corner triple to bring the Hornets within 10. Campazzo hit a wing triple for his fifth straight point for the Nuggets. Denver gave up a Charlotte bucket that brought them within 11 and prompted a Nuggets’ timeout, but it appeared as if Denver’s full starting lineup was about to enter the game to close things out.
Gordon hit a jumper from mid-range, but Charlotte hit a pair of triples to bring them within seven. Another bucket from Graham had Charlotte within five with under five minutes remaining in the game. Coming out of the timeout, Green was called for an offensive foul while trying to get Jokic open with a screen. Jokic forced a miss on Washington before hitting a spinning layup on the other end to stop the Hornets’ run.
On defense, Green and Campazzo had a pair of deflections to give the Hornets just three seconds on the shot clock, but Graham managed to hit the triple off of the inbounds pass which brought Charlotte within four with just under 3:00 remaining. Rivers had his shot blocked off the backboard before Graham pulled up from deep 3-point range to make it just a one-point game. A miss from Jokic was snagged by Green and put it back in to maintain the lead. Zeller went 1-of-2 at the charity stripe before Jokic hit Campazzo for a huge triple.
Graham was at the line with 1:10 remaining, and he went 2-of-2. With the shot clock winding down, Gordon tipped in his own miss to make the lead five. Charlotte had a few different opportunities to cut into the lead but couldn’t get any of them to go before Ball was forced to foul Jokic with 23.8 remaining and send him to the line where he went 2-of-2. Graham hit a corner triple before Rivers was fouled in transition. He went 1-of-2 at the line, and the Nuggets would hang on to win 117-112 on the first night of their four-game road trip to close out the season.
Points: Nikola Jokic & Michael Porter Jr. - 30
Assists: Facundo Campazzo & Jokic - 6
Rebounds: Jokic - 11
Player of the Game: Nikola Jokic 30 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 7-of-16 field goal, 0-of-2 3-point, 16-of-17 free throw