The Nuggets were without Aaron Gordon tonight, who typically can establish a rhythm early. It was felt early on as they were a little slow to start the game against the Warriors. They made three 3 pointers in a row to start the game after a Jordan Poole miss, and were cooking the Nuggets on the offensive end. Jonathan Kuminga had an easy time taking it to the hoop, and Michael Malone took an early timeout to help recoup.
After that timeout though, the Nuggets started finding their rhythm. They started playing faster and found success. Vlatko Cancar, who started in place of Aaron Gordon, scored 7 of the team’s first 17. Every starter scored, and the Warriors were forced into a timeout of their own as an MPJ 3 pointer cut the Warriors lead to 1.
After that timeout, the Nuggets and Warriors traded blows back and forth. Bruce Brown was a big spark off the bench, hitting two 3 pointers in his first minute in the game. Jamal Murray, Christian Braun, Jeff Green, and Zeke Nnaji joined him on the second unit. Bones Hyland was nowhere to be seen. The second unit won their minutes by 2, but the Nuggets would ultimately let the Warriors hang 35 on them.
The defense wasn’t good, but got better as the quarter went along and the offense followed suit. They put up 34, and after being down by 7 at one point, they had cut it down to just 1. With Bones Hyland being benched, it’s hard to separate that from the trade rumors going around.
The defense from the Nuggets to start the second quarter was really poor. The Warriors knocked in 11 of their first 15 3 pointers, and while some of it was shooting variance, it was a lot of open looks generated from drive and kicks. The Nuggets just didn’t make the proper rotations and it cost them a lot of points.
The offense wasn’t fantastic either, but Jamal Murray was able to sort of keep the ship afloat by making some tough shots. Jeff Green was particularly bad in his minutes, because he was getting lost on defense and wasn’t finishing well on offense. The minutes were going okay for the second unit, but at the tail end of them Jamal Murray picked up his second and third fouls in quick succession.
Michael Malone used his challenge on a blocking foul called against him, but lost it…in the second quarter. The starters came in shortly after and faced a nine point deficit. However, Jokic came alive and scored 13 points in the last 7 minutes of the half. Despite the Warriors hitting 13 3 pointers in the first half (7 more than the Nuggets), the Nuggets took a lead into the second half. They were up 70-69.
The starters came to play in the third quarter. It took them some time to get separation, but after going bucket for bucket with the Warriors for the first 4 minutes of the quarter they started to find their rhythm. Jamal Murray hit his first 3 pointer of the game to put the Nuggets up 80-79 and that started a barrage of baskets from the Nuggets. Vlatko Cancar, Michael Porter Jr., and Jamal Murray all hit three pointers in quick succession of each other.
Vlatko Cancar played well in his minutes, and made an impact on both sides of the floor. He has been one of the better bench pieces for the Nuggets this season and should see more minutes. Jamal Murray kept the flurry going though and got up to 27 points off a sick finish to rack up Jokic’s 13th assist of the game – before the third quarter had even ended.
Murray flurries have become more and more common, and he was electric tonight. He took over as a scorer, and Joker took over as a facilitator. Both showed out, and were putting up good stat lines before the third quarter had even ended. Jokic had 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists to put him at his 17th triple double of the season, and Murray had 31 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists at the end of the third quarter. Thanks to those two and better defense in the third quarter, the Nuggets found themselves up 105-91 going into the final frame.
The fourth quarter was inconsequential. The Nuggets outscored the Warriors by 3, and wrapped up the game with no problem at all. Nikola Jokic got up to 22 points, 14 rebounds, and 16 assists on the night. Jamal got up to 33 points and 8 assists. It was a great effort from those two, and they came in to close the game but were able to check out for garbage time. A late flurry from Porter gave MPJ 17 points for the night.
There was no Bones Hyland though, and it looks like his time may be quickly coming to a close in Denver. He got no minutes despite Peyton Watson and Davon Reed getting garbage time minutes. Christian Braun played well, providing good energy in his minutes. The Nuggets won 134-117, and move on comfortably to face the Hawks on Sunday.