The Denver Nuggets came to play on national television tonight, winning 122-91 against the Los Angeles Clippers on TNT in a game that may shape how many view the Nuggets for the foreseeable future.

Nikola Jokić needed just 24 minutes and eight shot attempts tonight, scoring 12 points, grabbing six rebounds, and dishing nine assists in what ended up being an extremely easy game. Jamal Murray led all Nuggets scorers with 18 points on just 10 shot attempts. The Nuggets bench combined to score 60 points, a strong number for a unit that has struggled to put up points for most of the year.

Oh, and Bones Hyland did this.

Michael Porter Jr. was also the defensive player of the game in the Nuggets locker room for the first time in his career, so clearly, things went pretty well.

“We want to create the habits that are going to allow us to win at a high level,” Michael Malone shared with media postgame.

The Nuggets now move to 25-13 on the season, staying atop the Western Conference. They’ve now won a league-leading 19 games against the West, the most important factor when evaluating their chances going forward.

Here are my primary takeaways from the Nuggets blowout win over the Clippers:

Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon get the ball rolling

Tonight was a great opportunity for both Murray and Gordon to have bounce back games following underwhelming performances in Minnesota. Murray wasn’t as aggressive then as he needed to be, and Gordon was perhaps too aggressive at the wrong moments.

In the first quarter, the script flipped completely. Murray scored 13 first quarter points, including multiple baskets on step back jumpers. His ability to read the defense and willingness to attempt the shots he was presented with was definitely notable. His defense was also great, switching onto both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard and contesting shots well.

“I feel great. I’m just excited,” Murray shared postgame.

“When I went into rehab, the first couple months were really hard. You know that [the return] is going to be the real fun part, just experimenting. getting back to doing what you need to do.”

Murray finished with 18 points on 7-of-10 from the field and 4-of-5 from three-point range. He had zero turnovers and played a highly efficient brand of basketball the Nuggets have hoped for him to find during the first half of the regular season.

Murray also said he would play tomorrow night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the second night of a back-to-back, so that would be a new development.

Gordon also had a great game, scoring 13 points and collecting seven rebounds and three assists in the process. There were possessions when Gordon muscled Kawhi out the way under the basket, navigated tight spaces, and finished through traffic for dunks and layups. He simply played harder than the Clippers, and that helped set the tone for the rest of the team.

Best bench performance of the season

The Nuggets bench contributed heavily to the win tonight. They were outscored because the Clippers pulled their starters at halftime, but the bench scored 60 points tonight with every regular contributor finishing with a positive plus-minus. Bones Hyland led the way with 16 points, while Vlatko Čančar contributed 15 points and 12 rebounds in his 27 minutes, as well as a steal and a block. It may have been the best all-around performance of Vlatko’s career.

“I think overall, Vlatko’s had a really good season,” Malone stated. “He’s helped us win games…he’s had so many different nights when he’s contributed.”

“I was never the star of the team,” Čančar shared postgame. “I always did the small things, easy basketball and trying to connect everybody. Once everybody’s a part of the game, it’s pretty fun.”

The Nuggets have found something with Vlatko, who’s now averaging 9.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 20.5 minutes per game during his last six games. He’s even averaging a positive plus-minus (barely) from the bench during that stretch. That’s a great development.

Bruce Brown also had a strong performance, posting nine points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks in his 22 minutes. He was extremely active in his role and found ways to impact the game in every way while on the court.

The Nuggets CAN put up crooked scores when they want to

The Nuggets net rating has been a little shaky in comparison to other contenders this year. Part of that is because of the defense that waxes and wanes. Part of it is because of a propensity to simply do what they need to do without having to blow out the other team. Up until tonight, the Nuggets had won just three games by 20+ points, one of the lower totals in the NBA among elite teams.

Tonight though, the Nuggets found a lead early and absolutely ran way with it. The margin just kept increasing from double digits, to 20, to 30, to as high as 38 in the second quarter alone. After that, the Nuggets didn’t give any of it back, going on runs to stave off any bursts of energy the Clippers generated in the second half.

“It’s not about the score,” Malone emphasized. “It’s about us creating the habits that will win us a championship at some point.”

There have been opportunities for the Nuggets to really stick it to teams this season, but they’ve mostly held off. Tonight, the Nuggets worked the Clippers for the first 24 minutes and then held them at bay for the next 24. It was as potent of a performance from the Nuggets that we’ve seen so far.

Final rotations