(Photo via: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nuggets set franchise best mark to start a season a 25-11 and extend current win streak to four games.
The Denver Nuggets (25-11) were fueled by Jamal Murray’s second half to beat the Sacramento Kings (19-19) 117-113. Murray of course led the way with 36 points, 34 of which were scored in the second half, including 17 each quarter. NBA All-Star Nikola Jokic had a 26 point and 13 rebound double-double to contribute to the win.
The Nuggets initial lineup was sloppy and got outrun by the speedy Kings. Nikola Jokic, whether motivated by the lack of all-star votes or not, came out aggressive and was the one bright spot early on. Although he struggled from the 3-point line he took it to the Kings down low.
The Nuggets eventually did settle in and answered the Kings 9-2 scoring run with a 10-3 run of their own by getting out and running a little as well with the deep outlet pass from Jokic to Craig to set up the Plumlee alley-oop.
Jokic made another case for his all-star bid after stealing the ball away from Buddy Hield and taking it all the way for a rare dunk on the fast break.
It’s becoming clear that it takes about two games for those returning from injury for the Nuggets to find their rhythm. In his second game back tonight, Gary Harris his two threes and started to show some comfort and ability driving to the hoop again.
The Nuggets went through a rough stretch without Jokic in the second where the rim was just a bit tight and they couldn’t get any shots up without them rattling out.
Immediately after checking in Jokic was dared to take the three by former Nugget Kosta Koufos and he drilled it. The issue with the next line in the rotation checking in was that they still couldn’t stop the Kings and Bogdan Bogdanovic from hitting everything.
The Kings decided that they were content with Jokic shooting threes all night and that’s exactly what he did, hitting another big one to spark some momentum. After securing a rebound on the other end it was Jokic’s outlet pass again staring the break where Murray bounced a pass half-court to Beasley.
Things started to get out of hand down the stretch to end the half where even after a Kings technical Murray and Jokic each missed a free throw. Meanwhile, Buddy Hield continued his first impressive first half by draining shots on offense and locking down Jamal Murray on the final defensive possession of the half.
The Nuggets desperately needed to figure out why they could no longer play defense at the halftime break.
The Kings did the Nuggets an early favor in the second half by coming out sluggish, but the Nuggets defense took advantage by looking much more disciplined. It was Jamal Murray who took over on the other end scoring the first eight points of the half for the Nuggets including 13 overall in the first half of the quarter capped off my an angry slam.
The Nuggets finally retook the lead at the 2:23 mark of the third quarter thanks to Jamal Murray’s 17th point of the quarter on a tip in. Murray’s third quarter was huge in getting the Nuggets back into the game, but it was the Nuggets ability to get stops that took the energy out of the building.
Even when Murray first checked out the Nuggets kept control of the game with some Torrey Craig offensive rebounds and second chance points, but it didn’t last. The group even gave some energy back to the Kings that was fortunately stopped short of them taking the lead back on a replay review of a last second heave.
Murray checked back in to start the fourth and hit a three right out of the gates. Just when the Nuggets offense was struggling to get anything to fall Paul Millsap knocked down a huge three to answer the Bjelica’s on the other end, just before Nikola Jokic checked in.
Jokic’s impact was felt immediately on the offense by getting Murray going with the back door give-and-go. Murray hit an open three off a Jokic screen moments later as he tied a career high for points in a half with 27.
The Nuggets were frustrated by the officials late in the game, seemingly being bumped on every play. Still, the Nuggets battled through contract and focused on finishing the plays. The finishes included a Harris fast break dunk and even a Plumlee contact dunk off the Jokic feed down low.
It was Jamal Murray that sealed the deal. After De’Aaron Fox hit a circus and-one on the other end Murray finally got the call the Nuggets were waiting for on a pull up three. Even with the deepest three of the game from Bogdanovic the Nuggets locked down defensively complete the impressive comeback from their 13 point halftime deficit.
The Nuggets will need to keep winning games like this on the road if they want to hold onto the number one seed in the West like they should. For now they can go take care of business at home against the Hornets on Saturday afternoon.