Jamal Murray set a new career high tonight with 32 points, as the Denver Nuggets beat the Orlando Magic 125-107 tonight. Will Barton was also excellent, adding 26 points of his own, while the Nuggets held the Magic to just 107 points at a high pace of play. Denver moves to 8-5 after a 5-1 home stand, currently tied for the third seed in the Western Conference.

Denver started this game with the best offense of the entire year, flowing easily and freely against an overwhelmed Magic defense. Murray in particular was extremely hot, hitting 6/9 field goals, three 3-pointers, and 16 total points in the first quarter. He took advantage of the difficult point guard situation in Orlando with Payton and Augustin out. The Nuggets as a team shot 7/11 from beyond the arc and generated a whopping 39 points, including an insane Jokic fallaway. They led 39-23 after the first quarter.

Entering the second quarter, things began to spiral a bit. Jokic missed a few shots, fouled in the backcourt and received a technical after reacting poorly to a call. He came back and responded with some solid defense and this amazing hook-up with Kenneth Faried from the halfcourt. Faried jumped out of the building!

Denver really turned it on after that, clenching down on defense and holding Orlando to tough contested shots at the rim. Denver’s offense kept clicking, though with some speed bumps, while the defense held Orlando to just 24 points in the quarter after 23 in the first. Denver led 70-47 with the first half in the books.

At the half, Murray had 22 efficient points, while the rest of the starting lineup put up balanced scoring efforts. Denver had done a good job of holding everyone other than Evan Fournier in check, who had 14.

To begin the third quarter, Denver struggled a bit with some pick and roll coverage, but they scored on the other end to counter it. Wilson Chandler was dealing with the turnover bug the entire game and had an ugly turnover in the third quarter due to a lack of aggression after catching the ball. Other than that though, the Nuggets were solid on both sides. Murray continued to be aggressive, putting up eight points in the third quarter to match his career high of 30. Denver pushed the lead to 30 points at one put, but Orlando battled back a bit with some timely shooting from Terrence Ross and aggressiveness from Mareese Speights. Denver’s offense struggled down the stretch of the quarter, but it was still 98-77 after three quarters.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Magic began the game on a 9-2 run before Michael Malone called timeout. The offense was becoming stagnant, but Mudiay made some nice layups to keep Denver at an arm’s length away from the Magic. Unfortunately, Denver took its foot off the glass offensively, and the Magic were getting a jumpstart behind Johnathon Simmons.

Still, Denver’s offense continued to pour it on, generating 27 points in the fourth for some balanced scoring efforts throughout. The offense kept pushing throughout the game, and

Three Takeaways

Jamal Murray can still shoot the rock. With 32 points on 12/21 from the field, Murray continues to remind everyone why they shouldn’t give up on him as a starting point guard. With Jokic and Millsap combining for 16 assists tonight, the combo guard can do what he does best and attack for himself. He will continue to learn how to balance facilitation and scoring, but

Paul Millsap looks much more comfortable. He served as one of the main creators for the Nuggets’ guards tonight, generating 8 assists. This is a huge development for Denver, as he’s finding his niche in the Nuggets’ inside-out offense. If both him and Jokic can serve as facilitators from game to game, the offense will put up nights like it did tonight. Millsap finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal as well, and it was his all-around play that really boosted Denver beyond Murray’s big night.

Will Barton continued his excellent play in a starting role. 26 points while the other guard puts up 32 is no joke. Denver’s offense was POPPING tonight, as the Nuggets went with a bunch of three guard lineups and kept the pace high. Barton made four threes, had six free throws, and chipped in nine rebounds and five assists of his own. Clearly, Barton is a starting caliber guard in this league, and Denver is lucky to have him, especially when Gary Harris can’t suit up.

Bonus: this is about as much as Nuggets fans can ask for at this point

5-1 on a home stand with the only loss being to the Golden State Warriors is no joke. Denver has had their struggles, but they have worked through them and won most of the games on the way. At 8-5, Denver is now tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the third best record in the Western Conference, some pretty elite company for a team that has gone through some struggles. Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap can be uncomfortable at times, but both guys were passing up a storm tonight. When the Nuggets have two incredible facilitators working like that tonight, they are unstoppable offensively. The defense was moderately good throughout, and that’s been a huge point of pride for Denver to begin the year.

I really like what I see from most of these guys to begin the year, and I especially like what Michael Malone has done. He’s put players in a great chance to succeed, as well as teaching the young guys throughout the process. He can struggle at times in the thick of the game, but the progress this Nuggets team has made in the past few years has been incredible. Gone are some of the struggles with acting like a professional basketball team, as the team has a new vibe this year. It’s incredibly cool to watch, so jump on the bandwagon now if you’re not already there!

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