Denver Nuggets: Player of the game vs. Grizzlies

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Denver Nuggets suffered their second loss of the season in heartbreaking fashion to the Memphis Grizzlies, losing 89-87 on the road.

In a defensive slug fest that neither team looked like it wanted to win, the Grizzlies came out on top mainly because the Denver Nuggets handed the game to them.

With 4.6 seconds left on the clock, Jamal Murray and Mason Plumlee mis-communicated on defense and Marc Gasol charged past them with a clear path towards the basket. With just Torrey Craig in the paint, Murray decided to wrap his arms around Gasol and foul him instead of allowing the field goal attempt. Gasol proceeded to make both free throws, giving the Nuggets and Mike Malone a minute or two to come up with a play to tie or win the game in 4.6 seconds.

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The final play that was drawn up was Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets un-athletic superstar who hadn’t taken a field goal attempt the entire game, to put up a fade away jumper from 3 to win the game. Jokic couldn’t manage to make the 3-pointer, and the Nuggets lost.

Jokic’s play and the Nuggets play design are topics for another article, as he certainly wasn’t the player of the game for the Nuggets tonight, and their play design was probably one of the contributing factors in Denver’s loss.

The Nuggets continued to struggle shooting the ball, making just 39.0% of their field goal attempts and a puzzlingly low 25.0% of their 3-point attempts. For comparison, the Grizzlies shot 42.9% from the floor and 38.1% from 3. It is a huge testament to the Nuggets improved defense that they had a chance to win this game at all.

While it was a disappointing game overall, there were a few standout performers on both teams. Here is the Nuggets’ player of the game against the Grizzlies.

(Note: All stats via Basketball-Reference and

Nuggets Player of the Game: Trey Lyles

Trey has had his fair share of struggles this season, especially on offense. But the bench, and Lyles specifically, were the two main reasons the Nuggets had a chance to win it right up to the last horn.

Lyles finished with a stat line of 16 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, and 0 turnovers on 66.7% shooting from the field and 40.0% shooting from 3-point range. He was also the Nuggets’ leader in BPM, with the Nuggets outscoring the Grizzlies by 5 when he was on the court.

It was a very encouraging game for Lyles and the rest of his season, as he seemed to finally get out of the shooting jam he was in. Coming into this game, he had made just 38.5% of his field goals and 17.6% of his 3-pointers. As a player who slashed 49.1/38.1/70.6 last season, it was unlikely that his numbers would stay like that for the entire season, and he began to make that upward climb in this game.

Lyles had the joint highest FG% on the Nuggets for the night(Mason Plumlee also made 66.7% of his FGs, but he took 3 fewer shots than Lyles) and overall looked like one of the few players who was confident in himself and his shot. He also led the Nuggets in rebounds and had the second most boards among both teams. His BPM was the 3rd highest on the night for the two teams, and the highest score for a bench player.

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In a loss that represented everything that has been wrong with the Nuggets this season, Lyles was a glimmer of hope for the team’s shooting and overall attitude in the future. Hopefully, he can take all the positives from his performance tonight and bring them back to the Pepsi Center against the Brooklyn Nets this Friday.