The Denver Nuggets had what looked like a trap game in front of them with the struggling Utah Jazz in town. They made sure to put any thoughts of a let down out of the question early and built a massive lead in the first half. Denver scored a season high fourteen three-pointers in the first half and tied their franchise record for largest lead at halftime. The Jazz gathered themselves and responded with the big third quarter but the Nuggets did far too much damage early for Utah to be able to fully recover. Big games from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray led the way in a Denver route as they take care of business 142-121.

The Nuggets got out in front early, opening the game with an 8-2 run. They hit their first five shots to push the lead up to nine which forced the Jazz to take an early timeout. Utah got a little going on offense but their defense still had no answer for Denver who missed just two shots in the first half of the quarter. Denver continued to stay hot as their lead grew to double digits. Utah simply looked very overmatched as every Nuggets shot seemed to hit nothing but the bottom of the net. Jokic worked the end of the quarter with the bench where their offense wasn’t quite as red hot but the Nuggets defense was still strong and kept the lead growing. By the end of the first Denver led 38-22.

Murray opened the second quarter knocking down threes and the Nuggets lead kept growing. Once again Utah’s offense was absent. They mustered just two points in the first three minutes of the quarter while the Nuggets opened up a 13-0 run. Utah started to get a couple baskets after that which kept the lead from ballooning by even more but at the halfway point of the quarter the Nuggets were up by twenty-eight points. Meanwhile Denver continued to fire away from three with great success. They had a new season high for threes in a half with thirteen and there was still over four minutes to go before the break. With the quarter winding down the game went into a lull. There was a lot of turnovers and bricks from both teams. They picked it up in the final minutes. The Jazz went on a small run in the final minute and John Collins slapped down hard on Jokic’s hand on a foul that left Denver’s star grimacing in pain. At the half Denver tied their largest halftime lead in franchise history and were up 78-44.

The Nuggets didn’t have as much energy to start the second half as they had in the first but that was expected with a thirty-four point lead. Jokic decided running the court was for chumps and instead hit back to back full court passes, first to Porter and then to Gordon. Utah was definitely playing a better game in the third quarter. They weren’t making a ton of progress on cutting into the Nuggets lead but they were starting to hit their shots with much better frequency. About halfway through the quarter the Nuggets started to look disinterested again. They took a lot of three pointers and challenged very few shots. Utah started to eat away at the lead while the Nuggets gave them soft fouls and easy baskets. Denver fell in love with the three point shot but they weren’t falling anymore. Keyonte George knocked down a three to cap an 18-1 run before the Nuggets finally gave it to Jokic in the post to get a bucket. Denver’s poor play continued all the way to the end of the quarter, giving Collin Sexton a layup at the buzzer to make the score 102-88.

The Nuggets had more energy to open the final quarter. The defensive focus was much better and Murray provided the offense. Christian Braun also had some solid minutes, first knocking down a three and then finishing a transition opportunity that was created by a nice Zeke Nnaji block. The bench plus Murray group ended up being the steadying force that restored order in the game. Murray and Braun started hitting threes with Peyton Watson attacking the basket and Nnaji looking to affect every shot in the lane on defense. Denver had the lead back up to twenty-three with half the quarter gone. Utah called timeout and Denver lost their focus again. They started fouling and letting Utah cut into the lead which forced Michael Malone to put Jokic back into the game. That immediately turned the tides in Denver’s favor but they continued to make silly fouls. It was a short stint for Joker who exited a couple minutes later with Denver up nineteen. With under two minutes to go the reserves checked in and finished it out. Nuggets win big 142-121.

Best matchup: Jamal Murray vs Keyonte George

Mar 9, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) attempts a shot against Utah Jazz guard Keyonte George (3) as forward Zeke Nnaji (22) an dcenter Walker Kessler (24) defend in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It was Murray’s night tonight. He was a major factor in Denver’s big run in the first half with his mid-range game and carried Denver early in the fourth quarter to put the nail in the coffin on Utah’s comeback attempt. He had his full arsenal working and put up thirty-seven points to go with seven assists and two steals. When Murray is shooting like he was tonight he looks every bit of a superstar in this league. On the Jazz side there weren’t many bright spots but one was definitely George. He was the key catalyst to the Jazz’s big third quarter and got red hot from three. George is one of three Utah draft picks from the first round this past Summer and while he won’t be winning rookie of the year this season he certainly looks like a nice piece to Utah’s rebuilding puzzle.

The bench is really coming together

It was another solid performance from Denver’s reserve group tonight. Braun, Nnaji and Watson are really gelling as a bench trio and provide another element to Denver’s game with their length and ability to be disruptive on defense. On offense they can still be hit or miss, particularly with Reggie Jackson’s struggles of late, but if the Nuggets can get two of their bench guys going, like they did with Watson and Braun tonight, then that can be enough to carry them through the non-Jokic minutes with Murray and Porter staggering with that group. It’ll be interesting to see where Malone goes with the rotation, which seems to have expanded to ten with Justin Holiday getting regular minutes, come playoff time.

The Thing to Bet cashes despite Collins’ garbage time efforts

After it became clear that the Nuggets were winning this thing with about ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, John Collins and Jordan Clarkson got to getting their numbers and played with the most energy they had all night. Despite that, Collins still ended up grabbing just seven rebounds, falling well short on the over/under of 9.5 and thus we cash in on our Thing to Bet.