The Denver Nuggets made it close. They made it very close. It took a bunch of clutch baskets from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to get it done, but they made it happen, winning 113-111 over the Phoenix Suns to extend their winning streak to seven.
Jamal Murray made the shot of the night with the game tied at 111, generating a deep step back jumper that swished through the net with 2.5 seconds on the clock. Jerami Grant made another game-winning play, blocking Devin Booker’s three-point attempt at the buzzer with a tremendous display of athleticism and timing to preserve the victory.
Murray finished with 28 points and seven assists on 12-of-19 from the field tonight, while Nikola Jokic racked up another triple-double of 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists, with much of his production coming in the fourth quarter to get the Nuggets their lead back and help preserve the game.
It was a sloppy game by Denver with 21 turnovers, but on a back-to-back after a big win in Los Angeles against Anthony Davis and the LeBron-less Lakers, it was understandable that the focus was lacking. Still, the Nuggets bench had some major issues that brought the Suns back into this game.
But a win is a win, especially when it’s the seventh in a row on a back to back.
What we said to watch:
The dominant god of chunk. Nikola Jokic has been on a roll lately, and while he played well tonight, it was even more impactful than normal. 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists is a solid stat line to be clear, but the Nuggets needed another scorer to stand up when the Nuggets were down late in this game. Jokic finished with just 13 shots, but he got in the post and got to the foul line, scoring or assisting on 10 of Denver’s final 12 points tonight. Murray will get the credit, as he should, but it was Jokic that kept Denver alive in this one.
Perimeter shooting on point: The Nuggets started this game by making 12-of-18 from three-point range at one point. They finished the game shooting 15-of-28 from three, and the Nuggets needed every one of those shots tonight to counteract some bad turnovers.
Don’t run out of gas: The Nuggets put up 34 points in the first quarter but only managed 22 points in the second, 26 points in the third, and 31 in the fourth. They ran out of gas in this one to a certain degree but were saved by Jokic and Murray’s late heroics.
Closing thought: The bench struggles aren’t limited to Michael Porter Jr.
Malik Beasley, Mason Plumlee, and Jerami Grant finished this game with plus-minuses ranging from minus-19 to minus-24. The defense with this unit was really bad, and it started with Denver’s inability to match up with a stretch five. Frank Kaminsky of the Suns finished 13 points on just six field goal attempts, while Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson put up efficient shooting totals themselves.
When opposing teams space the floor as well as the Suns can, the Nuggets’ scheme tends to really struggle. Phoenix shot 37 threes tonight, and they weren’t all while Michael Porter Jr. was on the floor. Porter finished the evening plus-1 in the plus-minus department, which greatly separates the time he was on the floor with when Denver really struggled.
Even though the Nuggets won this one, they still have some work to do with the bench. Nothing is entirely solved, and continuing to tinker with the bench unit may be the best way to find a permanent solution. Either way, tonight wasn’t the greatest showing of the season from Denver’s second unit.