Denver Nuggets came out flat in the first fall down by as many as 10-points. Then fight back to take a tough road win 113-108 over New Orleans.Embed from Getty Images
The first frame saw the Denver Nuggets continue a worrying trend of slow starts. You can’t continuously fall behind by double-digits and expect to win consistently. That’s exactly what happened against New Orleans, again. They fell behind by as many as 10-points, before scratching back to tie it at 26-all. Only to see the shot selection get abysmal with Jokic on the bench and falling to a 33-26 deficit by the end of the quarter.
After a 30-point performance on Sunday, Zion Williamson had 15 in the first quarter alone. The Big-Three of Denver did their best to keep pace with Jokic throwing in 6, Murray 7, and MPJ 7. No other Nugget had more than 3. And for the second-straight game, the Nuggets shot was lost for 3-quarters. This was the 3rd best 3-point shooting team in the league on Monday. Come Friday and they had slipped all the way to 6th (38.4). While their opponents are shooting out of their minds. You saw Toronto jack 24 made 3’s on Wednesday. And New Orleans who was 21st in the league coming in at 35.4 percent shooting 50% in the first quarter from deep.Embed from Getty Images
The 2nd quarter had the Nuggets slip as far as 14-points behind as the insane 3-point shooting for New Orleans continued. They ended the first half 9-17 from behind the arc. But the biggest disparity was the fact that Denver had a total of 3 free-throws in the first half. Zion had 4 times that much alone.
I know a lot of Nuggets fans will point to the fact Malone had to challenge an obvious charge that was initially ruled a defensive foul when Zion drove on Milsap. Or the horrible no-call on an obvious foul when MPJ should have had a dunk and the defender got absolutely no ball, just straight hand/arm and throwing Porter hard to the floor. And will make the assumption it was simply biased officiating for the home team. I counter this with my multiple assessments of how “soft” the Nuggets tend to play. Nobody wants to see them go Artest on the court, but some Metta wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
The 3rd quarter saw a 63-54 halftime deficit grow to as much as 14-points before the Nuggets went on a 26-9 run at the end of the 3rd to build a 5-point lead. Then their shots dried up, again, and allowed Zion and company to rebuild a 4-point lead before the end of the quarter. Denver played great on the boards as they did not allow a single second-chance point until 3 mins. to go in the 3rd. Denver actually outscored New Orleans 31-23 in the frame. They had 3 players within 2 points of 20, and 2 over that number. But were outscored 14-4 when it came to bench points.Embed from Getty Images
This team will not win with MPJ/Murray/Jokic alone. And their lack of aggression on the offensive side is going to doom them. They sorely need the energy on defense and offensive paint that Gordon will bring. Unfortunately, they were not ready yet.
The 4th quarter had New Orleans start with an 18-4 run, growing the lead again. Then at 6:15 to go with the score 100-96 Pelicans up, The Nuggets started their own run, 22-8 when all was said and done, with a renewed fervor on defense. The turning point for me was when Murray picked the pocket of Zion at that 6:15 mark, took it to the rim, flushed the dunk, and got the foul. This gave Denver the energy they needed to make 1 final push. After building a 3-point lead with 1:03 to go. At this point, Jokic had 37, Murray 23, and MPJ chipped in 25. More importantly, though, Milsap hit another gear and had 16 pts/6 rebs./3 assists.
Here is that steal with the And 1 from Murray courtesy of the Denver Nuggets Social Team:
The Pelicans had a golden opportunity with about 40 seconds left to tie it at 111 when Brandon Ingram bricked a wide-open three. Zion played well enough to win with a 39 pt/10 assist double-double. No other Pelican scored more than 16, so Denver did well on everyone else, you can only do so much when guys are making shots they never make. But regression to the mean is a thing, and that’s exactly what happened in the second half of this game showed it. After starting 9-17 from deep, New Orleans ended 12-24. One concerning stat that did though was a disparity in free-throws. New Orleans put up 20, while Denver only attempted 7. If you are a team viewed as one that doesn’t go hard in the paint by Refs. You will not get those calls, Zion and the bunch live in the paint. When one team has physicality on tape, and the other doesn’t. Fouls tend to favor the more aggressive team.
Thankfully for Denver Nuggets fans this wasn’t a death knell as it usually is. Since Jamal went for a 23 pt/11 assist double-double. Jokic added 37 pts, while Porter Jr. put up 25 of his own, with Milsaps aforementioned 16 were enough to scratch out a tough road win. Maybe it was deadline lag, maybe it was another off night. No matter the cause, Denver will not get the same lucky bounces, lack of finishers, or gap in roster talent against the Hawks or 76ers, their next 2 opponents, that they got against a very young Pelican squads. Let’s hope an off day Saturday gets them an opportunity to fine tune things with the new guys. And come out firing on Sunday against Atlanta.
@Atlanta Hawks, Sunday, March 28 at 7:00 PM MST
Where to watch:
Denver Market: Altitude TV
Atlanta Market: Fox Sports South
National Broadcast: NBATV