The Denver Nuggets defeated the Atlanta Hawks 128-108 on Saturday night, another game at home in which the offense just cannot be stopped or contained.

Jamal Murray set a new season high of 41 points on 24 shots, hitting stepback threes, side-step threes, contested floaters, and capped off the evening with a contested dunk in transition.

The Hawks were without Trae Young tonight, a late scratch due to a non-covid illness, unsurprising at the end of a four-game road trip and on a back-to-back. In his place, Dejounte Murray played really well, but the Hawks couldn’t keep pace with the Nuggets offense and lost steam in the fourth quarter.

Nikola Jokić had another triple-double of 14 points, 18 rebounds, and 10 assists. He attempted just eight shots on the evening and focused on distributing the ball to others, and why not? With the way the Nuggets continue to score, Jokić hasn’t had to go crazy as a scorer in awhile.

Overall, the Nuggets are now 37-16, tied for the best record in the NBA with the Boston Celtics. There’s an argument to be made that the Nuggets are the best in the league, and it remains to be seen who will seriously challenge them in the Western Conference this year.

Here are my individual takeaways from the Nuggets matchup with the Hawks on Saturday night:

Jamal Murray continues to be on fire

Murray scored 30+ points for the third straight game, the first time he’s done that since February of 2021. Except, he didn’t just put up 30 this time. He dropped 41 on 15-of-24 from the field, 7-of-12 from three, and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.

“I’m just trying to do this, man,” said Murray postgame while moving his arm like a rising stock. “That’s all I can do.”

Murray added seven assists and five rebounds to just one turnover in the process. He received the team’s DPOG chain for his defensive play, though he joked that he thought it may have been an offensive award tonight.

It feels like Murray is reaching another level this season as the calendar has turned to February. Murray’s confidence is through the roof, and he’s attempting a high number of high difficulty shots that he makes look easier than just about anyone. His three-point shooting off the dribble has been great all year, but he’s now catching and shooting with relative frequency. He’s attacking the basket and jumping into guys as opposed to jumping away from them. He’s playing with the swagger necessary to be the player he wants to be.

“An aggressive Jamal and a confident Jamal is a scary Jamal,” emphasized Michael Malone.

Michael Porter Jr. found his rhythm

It’s great to see Porter continue to integrate himself into the team dynamic. Michael Malone and Jamal Murray were both extremely complimentary of his willingness to adapt and be exactly what the team needs. Most of the time, he has to be a role player who contributes defensively and hits open shots. Tonight, he had three steals and a really impressive block to save two points in transition.

In addition, Porter had it going offensively but never fully stepped outside the lines until he had to. He had 23 points on 9-of-16 from the field and shot 3-of-8 from three. In the fourth quarter, the game got a little tight, and Porter had to create some shots for himself in a lineup featuring Bruce Brown, Christian Braun, Vlatko Čančar, and Zeke Nnaji. It didn’t go well tonight, but that’s the next step in his return. The Nuggets will need to stagger him with the bench every now and then during the playoffs, and Porter will have to flip the proverbial switch and go from “role player” to “star” mentality. That’s hard to do.

The good news is that it appears MPJ has a bit of a runway to make mistakes and develop now. With the energy and effort he’s putting in on defense, the team trusts him to do the “other” stuff more than ever. That’s a great place to be, especially while in first place in the conference.

The Hawks impressed on a back-to-back

Sure, the Nuggets could have played better defense tonight, but the Hawks are simply talented. With Trae Young sitting on a back-to-back, Dejounte Murray took over and did his best Trae impression, only with actual defense to go with it. Murray finished with 28 points and 10 assists in his 35 minutes, willing the Hawks into this game and keeping it close for awhile. His aggressiveness and ability to get anywhere on the floor he wanted was an issue against even Denver’s best guards. With Caldwell-Pope exiting in the second quarter, Denver had fewer options to throw at Dejounte.

Of course, it did help that Christian Braun stepped up and filled that void. 32 minutes tonight and a +20. His defense was awesome, and the two three-pointers he hit were pretty big.

There are a lot of impressive players on the Hawks. John Collins is a steady vet who does a bit of everything. Clint Capela is a great roller. AJ Griffin is going to be a good player in the NBA for a long time. With Trae Young out, it stands out how capable the rest of the team is.

Still, the Nuggets won because they’re at home and are the better team.

Final Rotations