While this wasn’t the story for the whole game, it started with the Nuggets looking good on defense. Aaron Gordon had 6 early points mainly off of transition dunks; Nikola Jokic also pitched in an early transition dunk. Then Jamal Murray had a very familiar midrange pull up, putting Mike Conley to sleep before shooting it right over him. After he scored his second basket, a nice layup in transition, the Jazz called a timeout.

Out of the timeout, the defense that had been smothering before became nothing more than a thin facade of defensive effort for the Nuggets. The Jazz starting pouring on three pointers — Lauri Markkanen, Malik Beasley, and Kelly OIynk all dropping in a three. The Nuggets allowed 37 points in the first quarter, and needed to tighten up defensively. The Jazz had shot 57.7% from the floor and 46.2% from three. Though the Nuggets didn’t do bad offensively with 30 points of their own. The standouts being Bones Hyland off the bench with 7 points and Joker, AG, and Jamal combining for 18 points.

Unfortunately for the Nuggets though, there was going to to be no such fate in the second quarter. The Jazz came out of the gates in the second quarter swinging. The Nuggets came out like they didn’t know there was a game. They played paper thin defense, nearly got out rebounded by Jarred Vanderbilt by himself in the first half (the Nuggets had 13 total and Vando had 12), and got cooked by anyone who knew how to dribble the ball.

The bench looked really bad in the first half. They got outscored 35-9 and it was for obvious reasons. They couldn’t defend pick and rolls — DeAndre Jordan and Jeff Green were just not guarding well. They also were forcing up tough shots. They would have to be better in the second half.

Jamal Murray had a minor ankle tweak, but came back into the game and hit a circus three. That was about all that went well for the Nuggets though. Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon were the only Nuggets with double digit scoring with Jamal and MPJ pitching in 7 each. The team shot 2/8 from downtown during the first half. What started the quarter as a 7 point deficit quickly grew to a 20+ point lead and the Nuggets found themselves down 75-53 at halftime.

After halftime, the Nuggets did come out looking significantly more locked in on defense. They were making hard closeouts, proper rotations, and hustling. Nikola Jokic had 11 points in the quarter and was dominant. MPJ had some good hustle plays and hit some shots. The starters were looking good. They wittled the lead down to just 10 points.

However, when the bench came in it let up a slight bit. Malone decided to go with a small ball lineup of Bones, Bruce, KCP, Davon, and Jeff Green. It didn’t do too well, but the Nuggets only were down 14 going into the final frame. It was an encouraging quarter and they were within striking distance of the Jazz.

The Nuggets attempted to rally, but ultimately it was too little too late. During the fourth quarter they got it within single digits, but then gave up 10 free throws in the final frame. As well as coming apart defensively in the last few minutes.

Nikola Jokic was the only reason the Nuggets were in this game to begin with, but he gave up a lot of easy looks late in the game. He got picked apart on defense, and needs to improve on that end going forward.

Standouts in this game were Nikola Jokic who finished with 27 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals on 12/17 shooting from the field (1/3 3P, 2/2 FT). He was dominant and looked like his normal self. Aaron Gordon also filled in fantastically in his minutes with 22 points and 10 rebounds on 10/17 shooting with a steal and a block to boot.

At the end of the day it came down to the Nuggets giving up 21 turnovers for 32 points off of turnovers, sloppy defense to start the game, bad bench play, and shooting variance. The Nuggets only made 5/22 from 3 and the Jazz hit 16/38 on the night. It was an ugly game, but not a cause for concern yet. The Nuggets will play the Warriors on Friday night and have a chance to redeem themselves on national TV.