Nuggets withstand early onslaught en route to drubbing of Miami Heat 123-106 in first game without star Murray.
The Denver Nuggets came into their first night without their star, just like their Ball Arena roommates. As they learned Tuesday that they would be without Jamal Murray until the playoff run next year after he tore his ACL against the Warriors on Monday. This meant Monte Morris sliding into the starting lineup to facilitate while everyone looked at Aaron Gordon to see how he could fill the scoring hole left by the loss of Murray.
Miami looked to make a statement early as they would jump out to an early lead they would grow to as much as 6 points. Bam Adebayo would end up with a game-high 8 points in the frame as both defenses would come to play. The major difference was the 6 Denver turnovers to Miami’s 0. This lead to a 31-26 edge going into the second. Not a single Nugget had more than 6 points in the quarter.Embed from Getty Images
The second quarter saw Air Gordon lift off and carry the Nuggets to the lead 32-31 with 10 minutes left in the half. This is the point the Nuggets took over and built a 60-49 halftime lead. They did this on the back of Michael Porter Jr. falling one rebound shy of a double-double half at 17 pts/9 rebs. Nikola Jokic chipped in 13 pts/6 asts/3 rebs./1 blk. You had P.J. Dozier and JaMychal Green go a combined 6-7 from the field for 15 pts/2 rebs/2 asts/1 stl. The only real concern was the absolutely empty box score for Will Barton who had 1 asts/1 reb/1 TO in the first half. But due to sound defense, he managed to keep every Nugget player with a positive rating in both PER and +/-.
Here is one of those moments that sparked a Nuggets team that seemed flat courtesy of the Denver Nuggets Social Team:
Miami on the other hand went absolutely cold after that fast start that had them at 50% from three at the end of the first. Yes, they could only manage to score 18 points in the entire quarter. By the time halftime rolled around, that 3-point% had dropped all the way down to 37.6%. Trevor Ariza led the Heat in scoring with 13 pts. Bam Adebayo was right behind with 12, this was more than the rest of the Heat roster combined (24 pts.). That’s obviously not going to cut it against any NBA team, regardless of their injury list.
The third would see Barton score his first points on a fast-break trey at just over 7 mins. to go in the quarter. The quarter also saw MPJ, Dozier, and Green stay en fuego. MPJ would build his game-high point total to 22, but still a rebound shy of that double-double. Jokic would get his double-double with 17 pts/10 asts/6 rebs. putting him within shot of his 15th triple-double of the season. PJ almost double his point total to 13, and Green had 11 pts of his own. With 4 out of 5 starters in double digits, that put 6 total Nuggets with at least 11 points after three quarters of basketball. That’s how you build a 96-79 lead going into the final frame.
This is what hustle from your stars leads to. Courtesy of the Denver Nuggets Social Team:
The Nuggets would build a 105-84 with less than 10 minutes to go, forcing Miami into a full-court press. At this point in the game, it didn’t seem to matter what Miami did, Denver had an answer. Even Coach Malone learned from past mistakes when the Nuggets bench, despite their offensive output, started to slip defensively halfway through the quarter. He called a timeout and got his starters back in the game. Unlike the unspeakable events, we all witnessed on Sunday afternoon. This after the bench allowed Miami to within single-digits. The starters would commence rebuilding as much as a 24-point lead. This allowed Malone to empty his bench in the final minutes giving us a rare Bol Bol sighting where he would score 6 points in just 2:36 floor time.
MPJ would cool down but still end up with a game high 25 pts and finally got that 10th rebound for the double-double. Nikola would secure his 15th triple-double of the season with 17 pts/10 rebs/11 asts and 2 blocks for good measure. Green threw in 17 pts and a block off the bench. While Dozier finished with 15/4/2, Facundo Campazzo complimented Monte Morris’ 11/2/3 with 8/5/2 of his own. That means Murray’s direct replacements were 19/7/5, that’s not bad when you have AG/MPJ/Joker to carry the majority of the burden. If they can get that on a nightly basis with one or the other putting up a big night here and there, this Nuggets team just might go further than most think in light of Murray’s injury.
Here’s one of those sweet MP jays courtesy of the Denver Nuggets Social Team:
Speaking of AG, he had 16 pts/3 asts/9 rebs. falling just a rebound short of a double-double himself. All this scoring was not the take away though. It was that from the 10 minute mark in the second until the end of the game, the Nuggets committed a total of one turnover. If the Nuggets can score like they did tonight, 6 in double digits, 9 with at least 6 points. Suffocate on defense with 7 blocks, 5 steals and 8 total turnovers forced (Heat only had 2 TO’s at that 10 min mark).
Although the Heat also got 4-out-of-5 starters to double digits in score, their bench had perfomances like Tyler Herro putting up 5 points in 26+ mins. No Heat bench player scored more than 8, and both those players needed at least 17 minutes to get to that 8 points. Duncan Robinson, the lone Heat not to reach double digits took over 24 minutes to score 9 points on 3-6 shooting. The Nuggets simply showed their depth as a strength and simply beat Miami into submission from the 2nd quarter on.
This shot chart illustrates why Denver’s offense is so maddening, they truly can score from anywhere when they are on. Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:
@ Houston Rockets Friday, April 16 at 6:00 PM MST
Where to Watch:
Denver Market: Altitude TV
Houston Market: AT&T SportsNet Southwest