The Denver Nuggets just began a stretch of 20 home games to just eight away games during the next two months. After a long time on the road, the Nuggets were excited to get back home and play in front of a friendly crowd.

The Nuggets delivered a good win for the home fans defeating the Houston Rockets 129-113. Jamal Murray produced a season high of 31 points in just three quarters of action. Nikola Jokić led all scorers with 32 points, contributing 12 rebounds and eight assists as well.

It took awhile for defense to arrive, but the Nuggets locked in a bit in the second half, allowing just 45 points. The Rockets, specifically Alperun Sengun and Kevin Porter Jr., had been feasting on Denver’s pick and roll coverage. Once the Nuggets became more physical and played some hedging defense, the Rockets struggled to handle that pressure and crumbled at altitude.

The bench took over at that point with Ish Smith, Bruce Brown, Davon Reed, Zeke Nnaji, and DeAndre Jordan all finding ways to contribute. Denver’s guards set the table well, while the bigs finished shots at the rim, including some nice dunks.

Overall, a nice win for Denver. They will have to bring a similar level of effort on Wednesday to do it over again.

Here are my three biggest takeaways from Denver’s matchup with Houston on Monday:

Jamal Murray hits the turbo for the first time

It’s Game 20, and after a long road heavy stretch of games, the Nuggets are going to spend a lot of time at home. It’s a great time to get into a rhythm, which is perhaps most important for Murray. Denver’s star point guard has been up and down for much of the season, but tonight represented a great opportunity for Murray to get himself going.

Oh, and Murray sure got going.

22 points in the first half on just 11 shots helped Murray get out to an elite start. He kept it going in the third quarter, hitting an array of stepback threes, post moves, and creative drives. His chemistry with Jokić continues to shine, but it’s his ability to take attention away from Jokić that makes Denver so dangerous. The two can work together and separately when Murray plays like this.

Here’s hoping this is the first of many 30-spots this season.

Nikola Jokić saw an opening and delivered

At halftime, the score was 70-68. The Nuggets led by two, but the lead was far from safe. Jokić knew as much and proceeded to turn into Goliath. He scored 16 points on 7-of-7 from the field in the third quarter, playing all 12 minutes. The Nuggets won the quarter 36-23, and Denver separating during that stretch made all of the difference.

Jokić more than anybody knows exactly when to turn up the focus and intensity. He had been going back and forth with Alperun Sengun for much of the first half, but when Jokić raised his level, Sengun had no answer on either end. Jokić scored easily, drew fouls, beat Sengun up and down the floor, and looked like an MVP.

When the Nuggets have both Jokić and Murray playing the way they did, they’re difficult to stop.

Ish Smith and Bruce Brown are a good bench duo

While Bones Hyland has a rotation spot reserved for him upon his return, it sure is nice to have Ish Smith available again. The veteran point guard dealt with a calf strain for an extended period of time with Denver on the road, and not having a steadying hand led to some bad bench performances.

Smith returned on Friday, but he played a full rotation role tonight and really took advantage of a young Rockets backcourt. He logged 26 minutes and produced 10 points on nine shots, eight assists, and five rebounds, some solid playmaking production in place of Bones. He also added two steals and a block, hustling defensively to make the right play and doing a lot of helpful things on that end.

Bruce Brown started and played well, but many of his possessions were logged with the second unit. Brown initiated offense, hit some jumpers off the dribble, played plenty of defense against the Rockets starting backcourt, and also created for others. He just does a little bit of everything at all times.

Ish Smith and Bruce Brown are both steady and functional playmakers on both ends of the floor, and the Nuggets will be a functional bench on most nights if they’re out there together.

Final Rotations