Nuggets win 10th straight at home and fifth straight overall heading into big road test Monday at Houston.
The Denver Nuggets (26-11) survived the hot shooting of the Charlotte Hornets (18-20) to come away with the 123-110 victory at home. NBA All-Star Nikola Jokic led the way with a dominant 39 point and 12 rebound double-double adding 6 assists on the afternoon. Paul Millsap and Gary Harris added 18 and 17 points respectively off the bench.
Jamal Murray was in a playmaking mood early on, passing out of good shots to get great shots for his teammates. He did his best Nikola Jokic impression, going up to shoot before passing into the post to Torrey Craig. He followed that up by passing out of a contested mid range attempt to a wide open Jokic three. Best of all, none of this impacted Murray’s scoring ability as he knocked down a 3-pointer of his own moments later.
The defense wasn’t stellar early on, but there certainly was some level of improvement over the last few games, at least on the basis of activity level. On the offensive end, the Nuggets struggled to finish on their first looks and couldn’t seem to get many foul calls either throughout the first quarter.
Gary Harris started to show more comfort on both ends of the court. He got things going with the poke away from Willy Hernangomez and a transition three to finish the play on the other end.
Millsap finished the quarter by getting his offensive game going with second chance points, floating drives off the glass, and creating with his passing.
The Nuggets unit to start the second quarter was playing with a lot of chemistry and put together one of the best plays of the game off a tipped shot attempt. Ultimately, the play finishing with a Trey Lyles dunk injected some energy into the second quarter Nuggets to start to pull away from the pesky Hornets.
Also in the quarter, Gary Harris got the best of his fellow Michigan State alum finishing a fast break jam over Miles Bridges, leaving Bridges with a smile on his face for what had just happened.
Jamal Murray sparked some second half energy by hitting his first look for three and in another similarity to the Kings game Nikola Jokic got a steal to lead to another fast break dunk. A couple plays later Murray attacked the middle of the lane and got a monster slam of his own.
The unique thing about this Nuggets team right now is that when their soon-to-be starting lineup gets minutes together they are able to pile on against a rotation that just had to play against the Nuggets current starters.
Gary Harris and Paul Millsap were certainly the difference makers in this one. Harris had his corner threes flowing in this one, but he and Millsap also excelled in doing the little things. Tip ins, clearing defensive possessions, and facilitating out of picks and rolls were huge for the two to try to prevent the Hornets’ hot shooting from stealing this game.
The Nuggets finally got some shooting going of their own in the fourth quarter from Monte Morris. Morris and Malik Monk were going back and forth between the two teams in the early fourth. Morris’ shooting finally got the Nuggets up over 30% shooting from the 3-point line compared to the Hornets’ near 40 percent shooting from three.
It was pretty clear the Nuggets were a much better team than the Hornets in this one, but a series of lucky bounces and the Nuggets inability to hit shots kept it far too close for the majority of the game. When the shots finally were falling, and when Jokic checked back in for the fourth quarter, the Nuggets pulled away with a 10 to 15 point lead.
The Nuggets 10th straight home win keeps them fending off the teams just behind them for the first seed, but they’ll surely be tested in one of the most difficult tests of the season when they take on the Rockets in Houston.