The Denver Nuggets continued their winning ways on Friday night, defeating the Utah Jazz 117-101 in a game that was over relatively early in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets improved to 4-2, including a perfect 3-0 at home thus far.

Bones Hyland and Michael Porter Jr. led the way on the scoring front. Bones had 26 points, including 7-of-12 from three-point range. His final deep three put the game away with Ball Arena going absolutely wild.

“It felt good. I felt comfortable,” Bone shared with media postgame on Friday night. “I felt like any shot I shot was going in.”

Porter returned from a one-game absence and proved his health in full force, scoring 22 efficient points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Those two led a successful bench unit today that featured several spectacular plays. Porter led the way in plus-minus at +22, while every other primary bench contributor was a double-digit positive.

The Jazz, after a hot start to the season, are coming back down to earth a bit. Lauri Markkanen, Mike Conley, and Collin Sexton each had their moments, but they were the only Jazz men to score in double figures. The Nuggets had seven cross that threshold themselves and made it look mostly easy.

Malone also commended another strong defensive effort from the Nuggets at home.

“For them to shoot 41 [percent] from the field, 25 from three, and to only give up eight offensive rebounds, I was so proud of our guys in that regard.”

Here are the three primary takeaways from Denver’s win over Utah:

Bench finds its groove

A subject of much discussion through the first five games, the bench has had several down moments to begin the season.

Through it all though, Christian Braun has firmly entrenched himself into the circle of trust. That paid off on Friday night, as Braun had a heckuva first half on both ends of the floor. With finishes in transition, defensive stops, and an incredible block on an attempted Malik Beasley dunk, Braun looks like a real contributor in just his second week of NBA regular season games.

“That was a helluva play. That kid’s got some balls on him,” Malone said of Braun’s block at the rim. “He’s a tough kid, not afraid, makes a helluva play. i can already tell he’s become a crowd favorite because of how hard he plays.”

But the biggest story was the MPJ/Bones duo and how it changes Denver’s bench unit.

Porter staggered with the second unit once again, and his ability to create shots out of nothing really helped that group. He hit 4-of-5 shots from three and finished with 22 points. The unit as a whole simply had more space to operate.

“I think that second unit is just going to get better and better as we play,” shared Malone.

“I feel like it opens up the floor up even more, having a player like Mike out there,” Bones said. “If you leave him just a little bit, it’s bottoms.”

Bones was awesome too, and he got into an unconscious zone from three-point range in the fourth quarter. He was shooting it well before, but he put the game away with multiple deep threes in the fourth quarter that Utah just couldn’t recover from. He finished with 26 points and three assists in his 24 minutes.

“I feel like if I can get myself going, we can put [Utah’s] bench away,” Bones declared.

Michael Porter Jr. looks perfectly fine

As mentioned above, Porter racked up 22 points on 15 shots and played an efficient game. Most impressive were his 14 rebounds though, giving the Nuggets another big body on the floor to improve upon their defensive rebounding. The Jazz were the top offensive rebounding team in the NBA heading into tonight. Denver just eight offensive rebounds, with only four coming from bench players. Porter was a major part of that.

The concern surrounding MPJ’s back from his absence on Wednesday was almost nonexistent on the floor tonight. He played physically, moved well, driving to the basket and battling on the glass. His absence was always precautionary, but it was good to see him put that to rest in the very next game. He will have more absences this season, and hopefully they remain just as precautionary as this last one.

Two games in a row of good defense

Though the Jazz went on a bit of a run in the third quarter, the Nuggets mostly held down the fort defensively. Utah scored just 101 points tonight, and Denver mostly allowed those baskets in the right ways. The Jazz hit just 10 total three-pointers on 25.6% shooting. They had 20 fast break points, but the Nuggets limited their second chance points to just nine for the entire game. Only 16 points allowed on turnovers too.

“To follow up that Laker game, another really good defensive effort,” Malone shared. “I think now in our four wins our defense has been really solid.”

After allowing their focus to waver a bit in the first few games, the Nuggets have locked in during the last two. 200 points allowed between Wednesday and Friday night showcase a refreshing level of engagement and execution. The Nuggets can be a good defensive team when they focus on it. That much is clear.

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