The Denver Nuggets opened up their home schedule this year on the second night of a back-to-back tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was a tough spot for just about any team, but the Nuggets were up to the challenge. They beat the Thunder 122-117, outlasting the opposing offense and executing well down the stretch.

Nikola Jokić posted 19 points, 16 rebounds, and 13 assists, the 78th triple-double of his NBA career. That ties Wilt Chamberlain for sixth all-time and the most of any center in NBA history. Truly a special talent and one of the best to ever do it. Also, Wilt’s pretty good too.

Jamal Murray sat out Friday night’s game so he could suit up tonight in front of the Nuggets crowd. The intros for both him and Michael Porter Jr. were raucous. Nuggets fans had been waiting a long time for this moment, and they delivered a cheer that nearly broke the sound barrier.

Every starter was a double-digit positive for the Nuggets tonight. Denver’s starters showcased just how potent they can be on the offensive end, combining to score 89 points. Though the turnovers remain an issue, they will iron those out over time. The important part is seeing just how great they can be.

Here are the three biggest takeaways from the Nuggets win against the Thunder:

Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. prove just how important they are

It’s been a long time since the Denver Nuggets crowd has been able to cheer for either Murray or Porter. The starting intros for both players were electric, and both guys gave fans a reason to cheer during the game too.

Murray looked the part of his old self on several occasions. The scoring guard produced 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting to go with five assists, four rebounds, and two steals. His defense was solid, and he did it over 27 and a half minutes.

“I’m just trying to work my way back into shape, game shape obviously,” Murray shared. “Just get my minutes up each game. Today was another win. Next game I told him 35 [minutes].”

There were five turnovers for Murray, but this is all part of his progression. Nearly 28 minutes in just his second game back is not where I expected him to be. It’s a great sign that he’s already at this point. The Nuggets will need to manage his return to the floor and not push him too hard too fast, but the start to the season has been encouraging.

Porter also excelled in his role tonight, with 22 points and five three-pointers. His defense continues to get better and better too.

“I tell you man, I’m so proud of Michael,” shared Malone. “We lost to Utah, but that second half, I love how he played…I’m on him a lot about his defense, but I think being a coach in a leadership position, you also have to reward them when they’re doing things correctly.”

Porter’s taking the steps forward that the Nuggets hoped he would take. That’s three straight games where he demonstrated a commitment to the defensive end of the floor. He wants to be good on that end, and he’s putting in the work. That’s a big deal.

KCP introduces himself to the home crowd

While he may wear number 5 and has the slight, lanky build of longtime Nugget Will Barton, Caldwell-Pope is a completely different player. While Barton was a bit more creative and dynamic as a creator off the dribble, Caldwell-Pope, or Kenny Pope as Malone has taken to calling him, is a stronger defender and three-point shooter. Both traits were on display tonight as KCP racked up 21 points while hitting six three-pointers. He also shadowed Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for much of the night and bothered him at key moments.

“Just being ready. Personnel. The coaching staff, they prepare us before the game,” Caldwell-Pope shared about how he stays prepared for defensive assignments like SGA. He discussed the scouting report, the film, knowing guys’ tendencies, and simply staying engaged and focused throughout.

Malone has been impressed too, noting his professionalism and attention to detail as a veteran setting a good example for a number of young players.

The Nuggets have long needed players like Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown, and Christian Braun (who had another great night). Denver’s options on the wing are so much stronger than in years past, and that helps them night to night tremendously.

Turnovers continue to be Denver’s achilles heel offensively

The Nuggets have turned the ball over 21, 20, and now 18 times in their three games. They have more giveaways than just about every team in the NBA to begin the year. Tonight, Jokić had three turnovers, while Murray had five, Porter had three, and both Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Gordon had two apiece. The Thunder capitalized on the turnovers and made the game closer than it should have been.

While the Nuggets are still working with some new lineups and configurations, the sloppiness from the team is still making things difficult. There are plenty of live ball turnovers that have either destroyed Denver’s winning chances or kept opposing teams closer than they should be. Hopefully, the Nuggets can iron out some of their mistakes in short order.

Final Rotations