The Denver Nuggets kicked off their homestand with a game against the Memphis Grizzlies and less than a compete roster. Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon were inactive but it didn’t matter with Nikola Jokic and Christian Braun leading the way. Denver got a double digit lead in the first quarter and never let Memphis get close after that. Scottie Pippen Jr. and G.G. Jackson had nice games for Memphis but it wasn’t nearly enough. Nuggets win big, 128-101.

The Nuggets defense was top notch to start the game, generating a couple steals that turned into baskets and got them the early lead. Memphis was having very little success scoring in general, they had just one field goal in the first two and half minutes and after another live ball turnover led to a Jokic layup the lead was up to nine. Denver kept it there as the quarter reached the halfway point with everyone doing their part on offense. With Memphis still struggling the lead continued to grow and got up to fifteen. Denver’s bench checked in after that and kept up the intensity. Colin Gillespie and Julian Strawther made appearances as the Nuggets closed the quarter strong. After one it was Denver 39, Memphis 24.

Strawther showed his value off the bench early in the second by leading the scoring effort while the Nuggets lead stretched to twenty. Reggie Jackson also knocked down a couple threes with Denver in complete control. It got a bit sloppy after that with some missed shots and turnovers. Denver got their starting unit back in and Michael Porter Jr. restored order by canning threes. It wasn’t long before the lead was up to two dozen. It was Braun’s turn to score after that as everything kept clicking for the Nuggets. As the quarter was coming to a close things got sloppy again. Memphis showed the most energy they had all half right at the end of it. They closed on an 11-5 run but at the half still trailed 69-44.

Braun opened the second half as a recipient of multiple Jokic passes that resulted in points, he scored six straight and forced an early Memphis timeout. Those two kept up their strong play but the defense got a little lazy so Denver’s lead stayed right in that twenty-five point range. G.G. Jackson was being a bit of a thorn in Denver’s side and they were getting a bit lazy with the ball as the lead dipped back under twenty. The Nuggets called a timeout and refocused. They immediately went on a run to put the lead back up to two dozen. The Nuggets beat down was so thorough that Taylor Jenkins burned through all of his timeouts with more than two minutes left in the third quarter. It did little to stem the tide but Memphis did end up winning the third quarter and thus only trailed 99-76 after three.

It was a bit sloppy to open the fourth quarter. The game was clearly in hand so neither team seemed terribly interested in putting forth a ton of effort. Peyton Watson was the exception of course, he skied for an impressive block while Denver maintained a lead around a couple dozen. Strawther once again made the most of his minutes. He hit another three and had some nice hustle plays to keep possessions alive for Denver. By the midpoint of the quarter both teams started emptying their bench with the game in hand. Jalen Pickett and Hunter Tyson made appearances with Tyson immediately burying a three. The deep benches finished out garbage time and Denver ends the night with a wire to wire 128-103 win.

Best matchup: Christian Braun vs Memphis Wings

Mar 25, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane (22) attempts a shot under pressure from Denver Nuggets guard Christian Braun (0) in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It was a great night for Braun and he was legitimately the second best player on the court after Jokic tonight. He once again was aggressive on offense and looking to score which paid dividends. More impressive though was his defense. He hounded Desmond Bane all night and forced him into an inefficient night despite Bane doing everything he could to try and get Memphis’ scoring going. The guy who got it going the most for the Grizzlies was probably Scottie Pippen Jr. who ended with seventeen points on nine shots. He showed his shooting ability and range which is no doubt what is keeping him in the league. Outside of Pippen though there weren’t many bright spots in what was an incredibly lopsided matchup.

Shout out to the bench guys

Kudos definitely need to be handed out to Strawther, Justin Holiday and DeAndre Jordan. All three guys got regular rotation minutes tonight despite all three not necessarily being regular rotation guys. Holiday is getting more consistent minutes lately and he once again showed why with his reliable play. Meanwhile Jordan had his second straight solid game filling in for Zeke Nnaji, the Nuggets bench rebounding woes did not rear their head tonight with DJ in at center. Strawther deserves the most praise though. A guy who fell out of the rotation entirely due to injury, he got the call tonight and didn’t miss a beat. Julian almost assuredly won’t see significant time in the playoff rotation but he reminded everyone tonight of the potential that makes him so exciting in the long term.

Jokic dominates the JJJ matchup again

The Thing to Bet tonight was to take the under on Jaren Jackson Jr. points at 21.5 and Jackson didn’t even get close. He battled foul trouble all night and was visibly frustrated. Whether it was Jokic or Jordan, Denver’s ability to win the size matchup at center spelled doom for Jackson’s scoring prospects. He ends up only scoring eleven and was a non-factor all night. Hopefully you took our advice and are currently living large in the winnings.