Jamal Murray made his career debut as a starting point guard tonight in Milwaukee against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. The Nuggets were 3-9 on second nights of a back to back heading into tonight’s game with Milwaukee’s second highest scorer, Jabari Parker, out for the remainder of the season. The Bucks don’t have many other high scorers apart from Antetokounmpo & Parker, and their offensive rebounding is basically non-existent. Things were no different tonight and the Nuggets won their first road game on the second night of a back to back.

As a team, the Nuggets started strong on defense taking advantage of the Bucks’ rebounding weakness. Denver focused on ball movement and took off ahead of the Bucks early in the first. Coach Malone encouraged the Nuggets to place an emphasis on making cuts to look for Nikola Jokic—ahem please see my game preview from earlier today. In true Bucks’ fashion, Milwaukee neglected the offensive glass allowing the Nuggets to pick up momentum quickly.

Danilo Gallinari made himself available for Jokic to dish to getting a quick 11 points in the first quarter. Tough defense shut down the Greek Freak and thus shut down the offense of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Coach Malone decided to get the bench some minutes by putting in Juancho Hernangomez & Emmanuel Mudiay with about 2 minutes to go in the opening quarter.

Denver kept things moving into the second with aggression and energy producing a 22 point lead. Hernangomez was a solid contributor with 8 points and 1 rebound in his first 5 minutes, and the Bucks took a timeout to lick their wounds. The Nuggets were shooting 58% and kept the defensive effort up holding the Bucks to just 23% shooting and only 6 assists as the 2nd quarter drew to a close. At half the Nuggets out rebounded the Bucks 30-19 ahead 63-37 with Gallinari leading the scoring effort at 18 points.

At the start of the 3rd, the Nuggets gave up a little momentum allowing the Bucks to catch up to within 20 points, but they quickly regained control. Denver’s ball movement was awe inspiring leaving them wide open for shot after shot under the rim and beyond the arc. With time running down in the 3rd quarter the Nuggets led 84-55 at 52.5% from the field. They slowed down just a bit as they were starting to show fatigue from aggressive play on a back to back. At the end of the 3rd Gallinari still led with 22 points & 5 rebounds followed by Gary Harris with 12 points.

In the final quarter of the game the Nuggets started to lose steam as fatigue visibly set in. They allowed the lead to slip to just 13 points with around 9 minutes left in the game. The Bucks gained momentum by stepping up their defense to bring the game within reach of a win as Matthew Dellavedova heated up with 10 quick points in the 4th quarter alone. The Nuggets took a quick timeout and Coach Malone helped his tired team regain their focus. At the final stretch, the Nuggets were able to pull the lead back up to 16 points with Jokic recording a back to back triple-double at 13 points, 10 assists & 14 rebounds. Denver captured the win by 12 points 110-98.

Top three takeaways:

  1. Jamal Murray is a promising prospect as a starting point guard. He was nervous tonight, but he came out aggressive on defense. Murray brings contagious energy to the game and his presence early on helped the Nuggets get the momentum flowing from tip off. Mudiay is a good backup for Murray off the bench, but Murray needs to start the game and play the majority of the minutes.
  2. The Nuggets’ teamwork was 100% on point tonight. The ball movement and unselfish play made them unstoppable on offense, and the Bucks had no clue how to handle it. Yes Milwaukee’s defense was terrible, but if the Nuggets can continue to execute like this on offense they will continue to set themselves up for wins.
  3. Winning like this off a back to back is a big deal. It means Denver may be starting to understand how to remain consistent as a team. They let their guards down a bit toward the end due to fatigue, but the effort that was put forth by everyone was a job very well done.