The Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies traded early buckets, but the Nuggets quickly went on a run with quality shots around the rim while the Grizzlies were struggling on the other end and got out to an 11-2 lead early in the game. Coming out of the Memphis timeout, the Grizzlies scored, but the Nuggets answered with four buckets of their own, and their lead was 20-6 halfway through the first quarter. Denver’s lead was up to 15 points with a heavy dose of Aaron Gordon doing the work as he had nine points in his first eight minutes on the floor. The Nuggets were getting some great bench minutes late in the first quarter with Nikola Jokic off of the floor. Their lead was up to 21 points following a deep triple from Bones Hyland. The Nuggets were 3-of-4 from 3-point range while the Grizzlies were 0-of-6 from downtown, and Denver was leading 35-14 heading into the second quarter.
Within 22 seconds of the second quarter starting, Jeff Green threw down a big dunk that prompted the Grizzlies to use their third timeout of the game in under 13 minutes of play. The Nuggets were getting quite a favorable whistle early on, and Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins let the referees know it before getting called for a technical foul. After building that big lead, the bench let Memphis start crawling back a little bit as they were within 16 now with Ja Morant coming back in the game. 17 minutes into the game had seen the Nuggets shoot 17 free throws compared to just one for Memphis, but Denver was just 9-of-17 on their trips to the charity stripe. They were leading 43-26 midway through the second. The Nuggets’ offense stagnated over a four-minute span in the quarter as the Grizzlies were gradually working their way back into the game. Memphis had gotten with 14, but Denver’s defense was doing just enough to keep them at bay. A triple by Morant rimmed out at the buzzer, and the Nuggets were leading 55-40 heading into the half.
JOKER JUST HAVING FUN OUT THERE pic.twitter.com/CvK4Fbw7Le— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) December 21, 2022
The Grizzlies started the second half with a run, and the two sides traded baskets as Memphis got within single digits before a triple from Jokic prompted a timeout. Denver was steadily rebuilding that lead, and it was culminated by a big triple from Christian Braun with just under four minutes remaining in the quarter to stretch the lead back to 20. Jokic was doing everything he could to put this game on ice for the Nuggets, but Morant wasn’t going down without a fight with nearly 20 points in the third quarter. Denver’s lead was 84-71 heading into the final period.
Eyes in the back of his head pic.twitter.com/vsIomLz9fh— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) December 21, 2022
A little over a minute into the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies were on a 16-6 run that had started in the third period and had gotten them within 10 points. Despite Jokic re-entering the game for Denver, their offense was struggling to put up points on the offensive end. Additionally, the Grizzlies had gotten back to within eight which is the closest they had been since the first quarter prior to a five-point outburst from Gordon that made the lead double digits once again. Gordon added another basket, and their lead was up to 15 with 4:30 remaining. Up by 16, Gordon put the icing on the cake with just under two minutes remaining with a reverse dunk following a handoff from Jokic. This was a victory at both ends for the Nuggets, but, specifically, it was a defensive victory. The Grizzlies were sixth in points per game, and they were on track to be held below 100 points for just the third time all season. Coming out of a timeout, the Grizzlies had emptied the bench, and they were waiving the white flag of defeat in this one. The Nuggets would get the win by a score of 105-91.
Points: Aaron Gordon - 24
Assists: Nikola Jokic - 13
Rebounds: Jokic - 13
Player of the Game: Nikola Jokic - 13 points, 13 assists, 13 rebounds, 6-of-12 field goal, 1-of-1 3-point, 0-of-1 free throw