The Denver Nuggets showed some grit tonight in their second night of a back to back keeping our hopes for a playoffs appearance alive. Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic & Danilo Gallinari combined for 59 points while the Nuggets held the Kings to just 92 overall. Denver’s performance tonight proved, yet again, that when they play a little bit of defense they can be an incredible team, and really fun to watch.

The Nuggets won the possession on tip off and immediately turned the ball over. However, they started with good defense and a solid rebounding effort on the defensive glass with Jokic bringing in 5 rebounds in the first few minutes of the game. Former Nugget Arron Afflalo struggled with a size mismatch on Gallinari and the Nuggets broke away for a bit of a lead at 23-15 with just under 2 minutes to go in the 1st.

Starting Q-2 the Nuggets put in some of their reserves calling on the help of Juancho Hernangomez & Darrell Arthur. Will Barton & Hernangomez opened up a double digit lead for the Nuggets putting up some quick 3 point shots on an 8-2 run. Plumlee did work under the rim bringing in rebounds and making a couple of assists while also utilizing his signature hook shot that is quickly becoming one of my favorite Plumlee moves.

Kosta Koufos proved tough to guard keeping the Kings within to within 10 points going 4 out of 5 from the field with a total of 8 points and 4 rebounds. The Nuggets tallied 5 turnovers in the first half, and the Kings recorded zero points off those turnovers. The Kings also produced 5 turnovers in the first 2 quarters, and the Nuggets were able to bring in a total of 9 points from those opportunities. Gary Harris went 4 for 6 bringing in 9 points contributing to a 52% team field goal percentage and a 10 point Nuggets lead heading into halftime.

Coming out of the locker room the Nuggets showed serious fatigue putting up quick and lazy jump shots, while Wilson Chandler struggled with a size disadvantage on Willie Caullie-Stein. Sacramento cut the Nuggets’ lead to just 2 points with over 7 minutes left in the 3rd. The Nuggets began to struggle on rebounds and began to relinquish the momentum they had worked so hard for in the first half.

However, Gary Harris exploded for a put back dunk sparking some fire in the Nuggets’ offense. Plumlee and Harris carried the Nuggets in the 3rd quarter with Plumlee securing rebounds, and producing assists for Harris who went 75% from the field and 67% from three.

The Nuggets looked gassed at the opening of the final quarter leaving the Kings open to cut the lead to just 2 points. Credit the loss of momentum to the Nuggets playing isolation ball and standing around on defense allowing Tyreke Evans, Ty Lawson & Skal Labissiere free reign over the court. Just when it seemed that the Kings might capture the lead, Jamal Murray hit a huge three from distance, and the Nuggets got a quick steal for a fast break. With just under 5 minutes left in the game, Gallinari hit another 3 putting the lead back up to 12 points. The Nuggets were able to dig deep to find the energy to close the game ahead by 13 points, 105-92.

Top three takeaways:

1. Mason Plumlee is starting to look a lot more comfortable in Denver showing that he can be a very effective facilitator, and powerful defensive presence. Denver has suffered on the rebounding front without Kenneth Faried, and Plumlee has worked hard to help fill that role. Plumlee’s court vision tonight was somewhat reminiscent of Nikola Jokic as he tallied a total of 8 assists for the game. If the Nuggets can hang on to the 8th seed Plumlee will prove to be a good asset in the playoffs.

2. Jamal Murray continues to show that he’s ready for more minutes. He brought in 14 points in his 19 minutes at 55% from the field and 50% from three. He was also a key presence on perimeter D bringing in a couple of steals. His energy and focus attracts momentum in a big way, and I would love to see him get more time in the game.

3. When Gary Harris shows up, he shows up big. He brought in 24 points at 67% from the field, but it was his energy in the trenches tonight that was key. Harris and Plumlee were the only Nuggets to show any signs of life in the 3rd quarter, and Harris’ explosive dunk was just what the Nuggets needed to put a stop to the Kings momentum, and regain their composure. Like Murray, Harris is also a force on perimeter D which the Nuggets refer to as G-fense.