Well that was an interesting game.

Jusuf Nurkic put in a mean double-double, Will Barton and Wilson Chandler came to play, but Jamal Murray stole the show at the end, taking over the offense to put the Nuggets on top of the Lakers 101-97.

The contest started with Barton making an impact with some strong plays on offense, hitting an open three and creating an alley-oop for Nurkic. Emmanuel Mudiay then asserted himself with some strong passing in the lane and a nice And-1 opportunity.

The Nuggets then got out into the open floor a couple of times. The first opportunity was quashed by a turnover, but the second opportunity? Jusuf Nurkic dropped the hammer.

At the 5 minute mark, most of the substitutions started flooding in, and the Nuggets became more sloppy, with multiple turnovers and bad shot selection from some of the Nuggets players, namely Mudiay and Jameer Nelson. Both guys were inconsistent to start the game, and if not for Barton’s continued strong play the Nuggets would have been down early.

Both teams went back and forth to end the quarter, with the good and bad of Nurkic showing through. The first quarter eventually finished on a Lakers run, and the Lakers’ bench outscored the Nuggets’ bench 18-0 to finish the quarter and the team had 10 turnovers.

Nurkic stayed in to start the second quarter and immediately drew a couple of fouls with his physical post play. He continued to make his presence felt throughout the contest, rejecting some shots in the second quarter and sending Jordan Clarkson to the floor with some stout defense. He and Jokic combined for some Balkan Buddy Ball as Michael Malone would refer to it.

Out of the timeout, the Nuggets ran a nice designed play to get an open shot for Murray, and he was wide open to hit the jump shot. After a couple of possessions, he hit a transition three pointer that got the Nuggets bench on their feet.

However, the Nuggets’ two young guards, Mudiay and Murray, struggled to end the quarter. In a short stretch of just a couple minutes, both struggled on offense with turnovers and poor finishes, and on defense, D’Angelo Russell took it to Mudiay, putting up eight points in quick succession. With some poor finishes and poor defense to end the quarter, the Nuggets went into the half down 58-49.

Denver Stiffs’ own Adam Mares provided some video evidence of a poor plan against the Lakers’ best offensive player.

The second half began poorly for Denver with a turnover, turnover, made three by Barton, transition two by Barton, turnover, turnover. The team showed its inexperience by compounding mistakes and trying to make magnificent plays. The game looked to spiral out of control before Wilson Chandler pored in a quick seven points. Just as the Lakers’ broadcast team bashed Nurkic for his field goal percentage, he stole the ball on one end and picked up an offensive tip-in to help take a one point lead.

The Lakers ended up recovering though, going on a nine point run to end the third quarter up 80-72.

Denver opened up the fourth quarter with a nice jumper from JNelson, and the Lakers came back with an alley-oop to Brandon Ingram for his first points of the preseason. The Nuggets then looked to come back through some solid aggressiveness from Juancho Hernangomez, but carelessness with the basketball helped the Lakers expand their lead to 10.

At this point, the Nuggets ran out the lineup featuring Murray-Malik Beasley-Robbie Hummel-Hernangomez-Jarnell Stokes, a lineup they used to close the Toronto Raptors game. Murray began to take over, first navigating the pick and roll, then finding Hernangomez for a three pointer.

The group slowly fought back through the quarter and dropped the deficit down to three points with three minutes to go, and Beasley came up with some athletic plays, blocking Yi Jianlian and drawing a foul with his speed in transition. Murray then took control and created nine points of offense through his shot making and passing, taking a six point lead over the Lakers. After a little bit of drama, the Nuggets closed it out with a 101-97 victory.

Game Grades

Emmanuel Mudiay – D: Unfortunately for the young franchise point guard, he didn’t rise to the occasion against Russell. He shot 2/10 from the field, and while he did post six assists, his four turnovers were alarming and his defense was subpar. Many of the same bad decisions he was making last year are showing up again this season. Hopefully it goes away.

Will Barton – A-Minus: Barton kept the Nuggets in the game during the early first and third quarters, putting up 20 points on 6/14 shooting in his 31 minutes. In his first audition with the starters, he was the best offensive player on the floor.

Wilson Chandler – A: While Barton focused on offense, Chandler had a very solid performance on both ends of the court, putting in 15 points on 12 shots, along with eight rebounds and three assists. He did shoot 1/6 from beyond the arc, but it’s to be expected for the first part of the season after so much time off the court.

Nikola Jokic – B-Minus: Jokic is now being held to a higher standard offensively by me, and while he impacted the box score in a way only he can, he shot 3/9 from the field and was pretty inactive offensively. In his 29 minutes, he only truly impacted the glass and the passing lanes, though he did nicely there, posting 10 rebounds and four steals.

Jusuf Nurkic – B-Plus: I can’t give a center an ‘A’ grade when he accumulates six turnovers, but otherwise, Nurkic was a beast out there. 18 points, 14 rebounds, 4 steals, and a block is a solid outing for the Bosnian Beast, and he changed the Lakers offense with his rim protection.

Jamal Murray – B: The growth can be seen in real time with Murray. He makes a couple of bad decisions, but then he makes some ‘wow’ shots. He has a turnover in transition, then he finds a cutter for an assist in transition. 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists is nothing to sneeze at, even if it took him 17 shots to get there.

Juancho Hernangomez – B-Plus: Juancho runs and plays a herky-jerky game, similar to Danilo Gallinari, but he seems to make many plays. He grabbed some rebounds, attacked in transition, and finally hit the top-of-the-key three pointer the Nuggets need him to hit. If he can do that consistently, he will be in the rotation sooner rather than later. Eight points and six rebounds in 19 minutes is good production.

Jameer Nelson – D-Minus: The offense came to a grinding halt with Nelson in the game, and he made a couple of plays here and there, but it truly feels like he holds the second unit back. With Murray and Juancho as his running mates the Nuggets should be favoring uptempo offense, and Nelson doesn’t look like the right fit.

Jarnell Stokes – B: Nothing flashy. Nothing spectacular. He did his job with six rebounds, a couple of interior shots, and a nice block. He was a +10 on the game and a significant reason why the Nuggets came back.

Malik Beasley – B-Minus: He’s very athletic and I like his jump shot. His defensive rejection of Yi Jianlian was also nice. Get this man some run Malone.