Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone was asked about the key to his team’s big win against the Los Angeles Lakers. Without much thought to the question, Malone answered, “another solid defensive effort.”

Malone went on to add “overall it was a very good defensive display by our guys but my favorite stat is the 36 assists on 35 made field goals, I mean everybody is getting in on the act.”

Malone is right. The defense has looked a lot better and it was on display as Denver cruised to a 129-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets were shorthanded as Darrell Arthur, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler didn’t play, creating opportunities for the bench to step up.

Heading into the game Malone spoke on these opportunities and said it was a game that Denver hoped to get Will Barton back into the swing of things as he’s been in a bit of a funk lately; and why not against a Los Angeles team that looks increasingly lost?

“I think he kind of just has to let the game come to him and I think he’s pressing because he’s thinking so much” Malone said prior to the game, “he should just relax and let the game come to him.”

Will Barton heard his coach loud and clear and responded by having one of his best games he’s had in quite some time.

How good you ask? Well, at the half, Barton had 19 points, and helped the Nuggets get out to a 67-43 lead, he finished with 22 points and six assists.

“Anytime I have trust [from] my coaching staff, telling me they believe in me and need me to play well, it does a lot for my confidence.”

Another player that had a coming out party was Jamal Murray as he lit it up. He finished with 5 three-pointers made as he had 22 points, two steals and three assist to lead the Nuggets to their third straight win, their longest streak all season.

Jokic picked up exactly where he left off and showed many on a nationally televised game on TNT what those who have followed this Denver team have craved about for two years now. He had 18 points, nine rebounds and four assist including this incredible pass that brought the Pepsi Center crowd to its feet.

Ivica Zubac led both teams in scoring, and looked to be the only bright spot for the Lakers, going 12-of-15 from the field. He had 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Jordan Clarkson also scored 19 points for the Lakers but struggled getting good looks as he went 7-of-18 from the field.

Additional Thoughts

Nuggets: With the win, the Nuggets now move 2.5 games ahead of Portland Trailblazers and four games ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Lakers: With the loss, the Lakers have solidified themselves by 2.5 games as the worst team in the Western Conference finals. (20-47).

Rivalry No More?

One of the biggest storylines for both teams in the 2015 draft was the debate on who had the better point guard. Emmanuel Mudiay vs. D’Angelo Russell was a real thing. Fast forward to Monday, March 13th 2017 and both players came off the bench and are looking to find themselves in the league.

D’Angelo Russell played 27 minutes and finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting. He had a plus-minus of minus-32, easily the worst for both teams.

Emmanuel Mudiay didn’t enter the game until the fourth quarter and played only 2:38, finishing with only an assist.

Look Ahead:

Nuggets: The Nuggets have a tough few outlook going forward, as they are in the difficult part of their remaining schedule. They face the Clippers, the Rockets(twice) then the Cavaliers.

Lakers: The Lakers schedule looks just as rough, as they appear to be in tank mode and face the Rockets, Bucks, Cavaliers and Clippers.