The Denver Nuggets came into Milwaukee coming off an embarrassing blowout. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, the Bucks served up a repeat and Denver once again was playing their deep bench by the end of the game. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a monstrous effort while Damian Lillard and Brook Lopez had their moments as well. The thrashing spoiled Nikola Jokic’s excellent night and two Nuggets starters exited the game early with nagging injuries. After a close first quarter it got ugly quick. By halftime Denver was down double digits and it only got worse from there. Gross game, gross result, Nuggets lose 112-95.

Lopez opened the scoring with a deep three and Giannis and Lillard followed it with back to back baskets which put the Nuggets in a quick 7-0 hole. Jokic finally got Denver on the board but the Nuggets continued to struggle to find any offense while Giannis scored at will. Milwaukee pushed the lead to eleven before the Nuggets finally started to get some shots to fall while Giannis got into early foul trouble. That sparked an 10-0 run for the Nuggets that included Lillard also getting into foul trouble. Jokic was dominating the Bucks with his scoring who were relying on their role players to carry the scoring load with their stars on the bench. That actually worked well for Milwaukee who regained the momentum at the close of the quarter and led 28-23 after the first.

Giannis was back in to start the second quarter while Jokic was out and Giannis took advantage. He extended the run the Bucks closed the first with and just like that the lead was back up to double digits. It continued to grow in the non-Jokic minutes as the second quarter was quickly becoming a disaster. Joker checked back in with Denver trailing by fifteen but Michael Malone was quickly calling timeout after a thunderous Bobby Portis jam. It went from bad to worse for the Nuggets as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was still bothered by his hamstring and went back to the locker room instead of checking back into the game. Milwaukee kept growing the lead while Denver missed easy shots and soon the Nuggets found themselves trailing by more than twenty. They were able to stop the bleeding there but Giannis wasn’t going to let the Nuggets close the gap. Denver finally got a little momentum right at the end of the half, they went on a mini-run and trailed 60-44 after the second quarter.

The Nuggets got more bad news to start the second half, Reggie Jackson started in place of Jamal Murray who was dealing with his lingering shin injury. Despite being shorthanded (KCP also was not with the starters) Denver had better energy, particularly Aaron Gordon, but Giannis continued to be the problem for them. The Nuggets defense wasn’t putting up much resistance to Milwaukee and that let the Bucks go on a run and push the lead back up to twenty. Denver’s offense wasn’t much better. Colin Gillespie was in and whether it was cause or coincidence everything looked bog down on that end (Colin had two travelling violations within a few minutes). Lillard started to find his rhythm which kept the lead right around twenty-four as the quarter was winding down. Denver’s offense continued to stall and the Bucks lead continued to grow. By the end of the third quarter Denver was down 91-63.

Michael Porter Jr. got the Nuggets on a mini-run to open the quarter to get them in the range of a respectable blowout instead of an outright butt kicking. They got it all the way down to twenty before Malone signaled Denver was conceding by putting Zeke Nnaji in where Jokic would normally have returned to the game. The Bucks started to look pretty disinterested in the game as well and they stalled out on offense but the Nuggets offense at that point was entirely reliant on MPJ who wasn’t able to convert consistently. It wasn’t long before the full reserve units were in with the likes of Gillespie, Julian Strawther and Braxton Key in the game. Let’s just say it wasn’t beautiful basketball. Meanwhile, Pat Connaughton got his shots off and the lead was right back in the twenties. As the game came to a close Milwaukee suddenly went cold but it was way too late to matter. The Nuggets reserves scored some glamour points to not make the game look quite as atrocious as it was but by the final buzzer it was a 112-95 loss.

Best matchup: Nikola Jokic vs Giannis Antetokounmpo

Feb 12, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) is pressured by Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) and forward Aaron Gordon (50) in the third quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The only player on Denver’s roster who can’t be blamed for the gross performance was Nikola. If this had been a close game then he almost guaranteed ends the night with a thirty plus point triple double. He ended the night with twenty-nine points, twelve rebounds and eight assists. He was the only thing to combat the continuous onslaught from Giannis who was every bit of his MVP self tonight. It didn’t matter if it was AG, Peyton Watson or Nikola himself, Giannis blew threw every defender the Nuggets threw at him. He finished with a monster double-double, tallying thirty-six points and eighteen rebounds. Jokic’s performance was able to cancel out Giannis to some extent, but Antetokounmpo was also able to cancel out Jokic and he got way more help from his teammates which proved to be the difference.

Injuries are way more concerning than the loss

The Nuggets worst decision tonight happened before the game even began when they decided that KCP was good to go. He didn’t look near 100% from the opening tip and exited the game in the first quarter never to return. Not sure what they were thinking on that one. Jamal also came up hobbled with the shin injury that has continued to bother him these past couple weeks. What’s concerning about both injuries is they come after Denver hasn’t played a game since Friday. One would assume both KCP and Murray were getting extensive treatment in those couple of days while they hung out in a hotel in Milwaukee (I mean, it’s Milwaukee, what else are you going to do?) and Denver would have a very solid grasp on where both players were at physically. With just one game before the now incredibly needed All-Star break, I’d be shocked if either player suits up against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

AG cashes the Thing to Bet with a huge block

We needed just one swat from Gordon to make good on our Thing to Bet tonight and he got it for us right before the end of the first half on a beautiful block of a Giannis finger roll layup attempt. It was one of the few bright moments in an otherwise woeful second quarter and if you took our advice and laid some money on it pregame then at least your leaving this game with silver lining.