The Denver Nuggets were back in the Pepsi Center tonight after dropping a game late last night against the Los Angeles Lakers. They faced a much tougher task on the second half of the back to back with the Memphis Grizzlies in town and as the night drew on, it was clear that Denver was not up to the task. Marc Gasol had a big night and Mike Conley was his usual self. Beyond the Grizzlies stars doing their thing, it was just painfully obvious that the Nuggets had no energy or focus. The pacific time zone to mountain time zone B2B is always tough, but these games are on the schedule. Nuggets needed more effort tonight which they didn’t get and they drop the game 119-99.

The game opened with each team getting off to a good start on the offensive end with Danilo Gallinari leading the charge for the Nuggets while Gasol and Conley were putting in work for the Grizzlies. Jameer Nelson found himself in early foul trouble which made an earlier return to the court for Emmanuel Mudiay than Coach Malone probably wanted. Almost directly after Mudiay checked in, Nelson was given a double technical, likely because he had some choice words for the ref, and he was ejected. With Mudiay on a minutes restriction the table was set for big minutes at point guard for Jamal Murray. Meanwhile, Conley and Gallinari continued to trade baskets and the score stayed tight as the quarter rounded the halfway mark. The Grizzlies began to pull away but a timeout and a regrouping from Denver brought them back in it. The Grizz put the clamps down defensively though, the Nuggets could not match the intensity and by the time the quarter ended they trailed by nine.

Gary Harris started the second by knocking down a three and shortly thereafter drew a clear path foul to keep Denver close. Unfortunately, just as they did in the first quarter, when the Nuggets started closing in the Grizzlies would tighten up defensively and push the lead back out. The game was definitely going the way the Grizzlies wanted it, ugly, grind it out, slow and defensive. This allowed Memphis to keep their lead right around nine points. Gallo was providing what little offense there was to be had for the Nuggets which kept the game from getting out of hand. That was until Gasol decided to find his range from three point land and with three minutes left in the half the Nuggets were trailing by thirteen. The trend of the Grizzlies knocking down outside shots while also giving the Nuggets almost nothing continued right into the half and Denver found themselves trailing by 62-49.

It wasn’t getting much better as the second half began. Jusuf Nurkic continued to fail to recognize the three point ability of Gasol, and continued to either turn the ball over or take ill advised shots. Still though, the Nuggets were hanging around. With just over six minutes to go Darrell Arthur knocked down a three to put the Grizzlies lead at just eleven points. Once again, for the umpteenth time, the Grizzlies would respond. Gasol was getting whatever he wanted, whether it was in the paint or behind the arc. After a Mudiay airball was followed by a James Ennis III three the lead had stretched to eighteen. The story didn’t change as the quarter wound down, and when it was over Denver was still trailing by nearly twenty points. To add insult to injury, or rather injury to insult, Gallo suffered a groin strain about mid quarter and would not return to the game.

The best moment of the night was probably as the fourth quarter opened when Juancho Hernangomez found a wide open lane and delivered a rim rattling jam. Shortly thereafter Mudiay delivered an alley oop to Kenneth Faried which breathed even more life into the crowd, but the Nuggets still trailed by fourteen. Ready for the broken record part? Despite that, the Nuggets got sloppy, the Grizzlies locked down and the lead stretched back to near twenty points. With about eight minutes to go in the game it appeared that coach Malone was throwing in the flag as Mike Miller checked in and at the seven minute mark Johnny O’Bryant saw his first minutes as a Nugget which meant garbage time was fully on. The silver lining was Malik Beasley made the most of his minutes, showing off his range, his quick first step, his passing ability and even some solid D. In the end not enough though, Nuggets get the loss.

Best match up: N/A

No one played well enough to be considered part of a best matchup as the team was thoroughly out matched. Really only one way to describe the team’s play as whole.

Main thing I noticed: Nurkic is just bad right now

It was another disappointing night for the Bosnian Beast, who looked completely out of sorts. It’s been a hot topic among the writers. We’ve discussed his lack of development, his lack of mental toughness, how his benching might be the cause for why he looks nowhere near the level he was playing at in the preseason. At the end of the day though he’s not helping the Nuggets when he’s on the court and tonight was another prime example of that. I’d speculate that Nurkic probably sees the writing on the wall and knows that he’s the most likely player to be traded in the coming weeks and maybe he just doesn’t really have his heart in it right now. Regardless of the reason, it seems that Juka wearing a different jersey by the end of the month is all but inevitable.

Closing thought: Jamal Murray missed a golden opportunity

When Nelson got ejected early in the first quarter the door was open for Murray to seize major rotation minutes and never let them go. Unfortunately he turned in one of his worst shooting performances of the season. In his defense, no one on Denver looked particularly good tonight and the Grizzlies are a solid team defensively as always. Still, with Murray logging 30+ minutes it would have been awesome for him to have a big game, and the Nuggets desperately needed someone to help Gallo with the scoring load. Chin up though, the kid’s got talent, hopefully he shines in his next big opportunity.

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