The Denver Nuggets implode late, drop opener 106-96 to the Jazz in Utah
The Denver Nuggets led 30-21 after the first quarter and looked like a team destined to start the season on the right note. After taking a five point lead into halftime, the Nuggets stretched their lead to 15 points in the third quarter. All was well. Then came the fourth. The Nuggets were outscored 28-13 in the final quarter and had only scored seven points with a minute remaining.
A promising three quarters led to a disappointing fourth where all of the Nuggets issues that plagued them last season resurfsaced. The Nuggets had 22 turnovers on the night, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter. Towards the middle of the fourth the Nuggets started throwing up desperation threes in hopes of a comeback. The effort was all for naught though as the Nuggets would lose by 10 points. A once promising start to the season ended in bitter defeat.
Will Barton was the star of the night for the Nuggets on the offensive end of the floor. Barton poured in 21 first half points and finished with 23 points on the night. HE even hauled in six rebounds. Will “The Trill” gave the Nuggets an added spark in the first half and played well just days after injuring his ankle at the end of Nuggets practice.
As for the Nuggets starters, former Kentucky Wildcat Jamal Murray drew the start at the point guard position and had a game of highs and lows. Murray looked uncomfortable in the first half. But he played well in the second half and finished the night with eight points, two assists and two rebounds. Emmanuel Mudiay finished with eight points, two assists and zero turnovers on the evening. Neither Murray nor Mudiay played over 20 minutes and they mostly gave way to Will Barton who played a lot of the point in his 31 minutes of action.
Gary Harris had an efficient game scoring 14 points on 5-7 shooting from the field. Harris was 3-3 from deep while adding five rebounds and three assists. The Jokic-Millsap front court is still a work in progress. But the big men showed flashes of success in their first game together. Millsap scored 19 points and corralled six rebounds. Jokic meanwhile, was oh so close to a triple double. The Serbian finished with seven points, eight assists, and 12 rebounds.
The Jazz were led by Rudy Gobert who had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Point guard Ricky Rubio played well in his first game in a Jazz uniform. The Spaniard finished with nine points and added a game high 10 assists. University of Colorado alum Alec Burks led the charge in the Jazz’s third quarter comeback with 16 points off the bench.
If the Nuggets want to be a playoff team, they’ll have to cut down on these types of losses. Losses in which they hold large double digits leads can’t afford to happen like they did last season. Early season meltdowns are what cost the team in their playoff push late last season and it’s something this Nuggets team has to figure out. Finishing games and holding on to large leads is what he Nuggets will have to do if they really want to take that next step.
The Nuggets will be back in action Saturday night at the Pepsi Center in their home opener against the Sacramento Kings at 7 p.m. MST.