After getting Nikola Jokic back last night, the Denver Nuggets got zapped on the second night of a back-to-back against the Milwaukee Bucks. Jokic, Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr. were all out for the Western Conference leaders. Despite the absences, the team came out slugging in the first quarter, and they battled back and forth all quarter. Ish Smith provided a burst off of the bench, and a jumper from him in the final 15 seconds gave the team the lead 27-26 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, we saw the effects of the injury-riddled roster. With more second-unit guys in the starting lineup, that meant that Denver was having to go deeper into their bench for minutes tonight. DeAndre Jordan was an early move off of the bench, and we were seeing minutes for Ish Smith as well. Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton led the charge for Milwaukee in the second period, and they erased the deficit while stretching their lead to five at the end of the half. They were leading 58-53 heading into halftime with the Nuggets down four starters.

In the third quarter, things were beginning to devolve and get chippy by both sides. The Nuggets were able to hold their own for the majority of the quarter, but, in the final minutes, things unraveled. With the majority of the Bucks’ starters in the game, the Nuggets’ second unit was struggling to keep pace. After getting within one, the Nucks steadily built an 11-point lead before Jeff Green nailed a half-court shot at the buzzer to make it an eight-point game.

To start the fourth quarter, the Nuggets were sloppy and struggling on both ends. They were trailing by 14 less than two minutes into the quarter in large part due to turnovers and bad shot selection. Around four minutes into the quarter, they went on a bit of a run, and they were within eight with six minutes remaining in the final period. The Nuggets got to within five following a 3-pointer from Christian Braun, but they looked as though they were running out of gas. That trend continued, and the gap continued to widen. The Bucks went on a 7-2 run over about 90 seconds, and their lead was now 12 with just under two minutes remaining. The Bucks would hang on late to win 107-99.

Stat Leaders

Points: Aaron Gordon – 26

Assists: Bruce Brown – 4

Rebounds: Gordon – 13

Player of the Game: Aaron Gordon – 26 points, 3 assists, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks 10-of-23 field goal, 3-of-5 3-point, 3-of-4 free throw