The Denver Nuggets started their game off with the Phoenix Suns looking to deliver a death blow in the first quarter. They started the game on an 11-2 run in the first four minutes, and they were leading 18-9 at the six-minute mark while absolutely torching the nets from everywhere on the floor. After just four minutes in his return, Phoenix star Devin Booker was headed to the locker room, and the Suns were missing his presence with Denver’s lead ballooning up to 15 at one point in the first period. In the final few minutes of the first quarter, the Suns started storming back. After the lead was 15, it had shrunk to a four-point game heading into the second quarter with the Nuggets leading 28-24.

The Suns continued that run to start the second quarter, and they took the lead 29-28 around 90 seconds into the second quarter. There was a couple of minutes where both offenses were mostly stagnant, and it was unclear who was going to break out of their slump first. The Nuggets regained their lead briefly before a mid-range jumper from Deandre Ayton tied the game at 38. Following that tie, we saw the Nuggets continue to struggle on both ends of the floor. After getting open looks early and often to start the game, it seemed as though the Suns were being fed the playcalls every time down the floor as they were constantly in a spot to contest the shots. Some timely shooting was going Phoenix’s way and keeping Denver at arm’s length. After leading by 15 in the first, the Nuggets were trailing 57-51 at the half.

The Nuggets started the second half where they left off in the first half with Phoenix scoring eight points in the first two minutes compared to just two for Denver. As the quarter wore on, there was a pretty common theme. Every time the Nuggets would score, the Suns would answer right back. If the Nuggets got a stop, the Suns would get one of their own. Denver was down by 10 essentially the entire quarter, and they couldn’t really cut into that lead with Chris Paul and Ayton on the floor. In the final two minutes of the quarter, Nikola Jokic started to take over, and he was doing the work on both ends of the floor as he led the team in cutting the lead down to three as Denver was trailing 84-81 heading into the fourth quarter.

Denver started the final period with some strong plays on both ends of the floor from Jamal Murray, but they gave up the fourth 3-pointer of the night from Landry Shamet, who was now up to 22 points off of the bench with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game. Less than three minutes into the quarter, the Suns were already in the bonus as the whistle was very Phoenix-heavy to start the quarter. With 8:30 remaining in the game, Jokic was set to re-enter the game for the final stretch with the Nuggets down by five. With just over four minutes remaining, the Nuggets were in the midst of a 4-0 run that turned into a 7-0 run over a 2:00 minute stretch that had gotten the Nugget back to within one. Denver finally regained the lead a minute later when Murray drilled his fifth triple of the game. Paul regained the lead before Michael Porter Jr. tied the game up with a 1-of-2 trip at the charity stripe. Shamet’s fifth triple of the game gave Phoenix a 3-point lead back, but a tip from Jokic made it a one-point game with 90 seconds to go in the game. Ayton went 1-of-2 at the line to give the Suns a two-point lead, and Murray evaporated that with a huge dunk with 11 seconds remaining. Mikal Bridges was called for an offensive foul on KCP with 4.7 remaining to give the ball back to the Nuggets. He redeemed himself by blocking Murray’s shot at the buzzer, and we were headed to overtime tied at 113.

Overtime started a little rough for the Nuggets, but they quickly got things rolling. As we’ve seen over the last month, that charge was being led by the hustle of Gordon and Jokic, who was up to 39 points to set a new franchise record on Christmas Day. Leading by four, Jokic looked to the other end of the floor to see how much time was on the shot clock before hitting a floater off of one foot. Shamet and KCP exchanged triples, and the two sides were battling it out in one of the best games of the season thus far. Following Shamet’s seventh triple and an Ayton layup, the Nuggets were forced to call a timeout with 1:02 remaining with just a one-point lead. Following a wild sequence on the offensive end for Phoenix, Gordon threw down the biggest dunk of the night over Shamet on a play that was nearly called a charge prior to being reviewed. Gordon missed the free throw before getting his own rebound and going 1-of-2 at the line to make it a four-point game. Paul scored a two-point bucket, and Murray went 1-of-2 at the line as well. Denver was now leading 128-125 with 11.8 remaining. Shamet had a chance to tie the game that missed, and the Suns proceeded to throw away the ball to Bruce Brown who ran out the clock on the other end to close out the overtime win.

Stat Leaders

Points: Nikola Jokic – 41

Assists: Jokic – 15

Rebounds: Jokic – 15

Player of the Game: Nikola Jokic – 41 points, 15 assists, 15 rebounds, 16-of-25 field goal, 2-of-4 3-point, 7-of-9 free throw