The Nuggets and Hawks started this game by scoring. They scored, scored, and scored some more. The defense for both teams were non-existent, and the offenses were generating easy look after easy look. Early on, Michael Malone got mad at the officials for not calling a foul in which Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got his landing space invaded by a defender.
KCP had to come out of the game briefly, but ultimately was okay after rolling his ankle off that. Bruce Brown came in for him, and the offense kept rolling. Jamal Murray was especially potent in the first quarter, scoring 14 points on 6-10 shooting from the field. Nikola Jokic was also diming people up, putting up 5 assists in his 9 minutes.
The defense didn’t do great though, and would need to improve to get separation over the Hawks in this one. The bench lineup didn’t have too much creation, but it didn’t matter behind Jamal Murray. The Nuggets found themselves up 35-30 after the first frame of the game.
Coach Malone rolled out a defensively minded bench lineup to start the second quarter of Bruce Brown, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Christian Braun, Vlatko Cancar, and Zeke Nnaji. It struggled to create offense, but was able to get a good amount of stops. They kept nearly even with the Hawks instead of drowning in buckets like the Nuggets’ second unit is one to do.
That might be a unit we see more of moving forward if Bones Hyland is indeed traded, and it might have some merit if it’s able to get stops like it was in this stint moving forward. Bones provides a good amount of shot creation, but having him on the floor makes it a lot harder to get stops.
Once the starters subbed back in, the offense started rolling again and the defense also kept up. They were dialed in, and MPJ, Jamal Murray, and Jokic were humming like a well oiled engine. MPJ had 16 on 10 shots at half, and Jamal Murray had 22 points on 14 shots. Nikola Jokic was on triple double watch with 8 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Nuggets started rolling and closed the half on a strong note up 70-52.
The third quarter was lost by the Nuggets, and put Michael Malone in a tough position because Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray played 23 of the possible 24 minutes that they could’ve played. However, it wasn’t a completely lost quarter. Jamal Murray was still in his rhythm and got up to 30 points on the night before the final quarter.
The defense let up a bit, and just like last time against the Trae Young-less Hawks, Dejounte Murray was getting anything he wanted. He has become a bit of a Nuggets killer this year, getting right into the teeth of the defense and scoring at will at some points. The defense had to regroup before the final buzzer, but the Nuggets took a 97-86 lead into the final quarter.
In light of Murray and Jokic having high minute loads going into the fourth, Malone turned to Michael Porter Jr. to keep the bench afloat. The creation of that unit struggled, and there wasn’t much defensive benefit to be had with the configuration of players put out there. The Hawks were able to get the lead back down to single digits.
However, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic were able to get back in though, and off a dime from Joker, Christian Braun was able to knock the lead back up to 11. The momentum was starting to shift, and the tension in the building was palpable. The crowd was ready to get loud if given the opportunity, and they were given it on a silver platter. Nikola Jokic was able to get his 18th triple double of the season, and his 9th in the last 11 games.
Jamal. Murray. He was insanely good in this one. He had a season high 41 points on 24 shots, and got everything he wanted to. He closed the game for the Nuggets with a Murray flurry and showed that he is back. Jamal Murray is leaving no doubts to whether or not he’s a star player. The Nuggets got the win, 128-108.