The Nuggets and Kings have both been potent offenses this season, but to start this game it was anything but. Both teams were allergic to putting the ball in the hoop early in this one. In the first four minutes the Nuggets shot 2 of 9, with two Jamal Murray 3s being the only shots. The Kings similarly struggled shooting only 2 of 8, with De’Aaron Fox setting the table well for his teammates, but many shots just rimming out.

After an early timeout by Jordi Fernandez, the Kings started scoring more with their main threat being Harrison Barnes. Zeke Nnaji got the start in Aaron Gordon’s absence due to a shoulder injury, and he struggled to guard Harrison Barnes during his first stint. He shot 3 of 5 from the field before Nnaji subbed out and the Kings followed his lead; finding more of a rhythm than they had before. Denver had Michael Porter Jr. score 8 of his own to join Jamal Murray’s 6 to make up their first 14 points.

The non-star players for the Nuggets had failed to show up in a big way for them, only scoring 4 points in the first quarter outside of Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Nikola Jokic. The defense was bad all quarter, but the Kings started hitting their shots and led 32-20 after the first frame. The Nuggets got outplayed and outworked the whole quarter.

The second quarter saw the lead extend with the Nuggets struggling to find any offense, only scoring one basket in the first three and a half minutes of the quarter and shooting 2 of 14 from beyond the work and 10 of 29 from the field. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed two layups and that was just salt in the wound. Bruce Brown injured his ankle on a pass, and it just felt like one of those games with a lot of rough misses.

The Nuggets even went down by 20 at one point, the second unit was a disaster and the offense devolved into a lot of isolation ball. Malone subbed in Christian Braun and Ish Smith looking for some change, but the real change came from Michael Porter Jr. catching fire and scoring two contested three pointers, getting a good steal that led to a Christian Braun layup in transition, and making things happen.

The lineup that should’ve been played far earlier finally got some run with Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Christian Braun, Michael Porter, and Nikola Jokic. The offense and defense both looked better, and CB should’ve seen run before he did. They managed to cut the lead down to 9 by half, and the Kings led 47-56.

After only taking two shots in the first half, Nikola Jokic came alive to start the second half. He had 10 points in the first 5 and a half minutes on just 3 shots. MPJ continued to score alongside him, but the Nuggets needed someone other than those two to step up. The Nuggets managed to cut down the lead to just 5 and forced the Kings to call a timeout.

The Nuggets made up ground in the quarter and played well. Joker had 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists at the end of the third. Christian Braun had good minutes, but the rest of the second unit looked fairly lost. Bones Hyland didn’t provide much offense, only shooting 1 of 5 by the end of the third. Zeke Nnaji also didn’t impress in his minutes — looking fairly rough on both ends of things. Nuggets had the lead down to 4 at the end of the third, 79-83.

The Nuggets had good minutes from the bench unit to start the fourth quarter, with Jamal Murray setting the table for a Bones Hyland 3, a great interception on a lob attempt by Davon Reed that led to a Vlatko Cancar 3 pointer, and another Jamal Murray bucket. Zeke Nnaji committed his sixth foul in just 15 minutes to foul out early though and the team was still giving up buckets. Eventually the Nuggets took the lead which didn’t last long, but once Jokic got back in the game the defense stabilized and the score stayed at 89-90 for a long time.

Eventually, the Nuggets broke the gridlock and took a 3 point lead after two three pointers came from MPJ and Vlatko Cancar, 95-92. Vlatko had one of his better games, and MPJ played his most complete game of the season. The Nuggets were able to close this one out behind another MPJ 3, some timely buckets by Jamal Murray, and a few clutch buckets by Nikola Jokic. All of them had 20 points at least and the clutch time proved why the Nuggets are so difficult to guard and will be in playoff time. MPJ, Jokic, Jamal, and AG is a pretty tough task for any team. Nuggets win 113-106.