The Denver Nuggets hosted the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night following their most exciting week of basketball in the 2017-18 season. Riding high after back-to-back wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors, the Nuggets were feeling themselves offensively. They overwhelmed the Hornets with three-pointers on their way to a 121-104 victory.
The Nuggets were without starting center Mason Plumlee again on Monday, and it showed early on the defensive end. With no Plumlee or Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic drew the matchup with Dwight Howard. Howard ate him alive — dropping 12 points in the first 10 and a half minutes. Denver was able to contain star point guard Kemba Walker though, and the damage dealt by Howard was minimal.
The Nuggets were absolutely locked in offensively, particularly Gary Harris, who led an aerial assault against Charlotte’s defense. The Nuggets dropped 12 bombs from deep and connected on seven of them. Five of those threes came from Harris alone, who took six in the quarter and dropped 15 points in the first eight and half minutes of play. The Hornets, meanwhile, made just one three-pointer in the entire quarter. The three-point discrepancy was the difference in the first quarter, as Denver took a 36-25 lead into the second.
The Nuggets would try to continue their onslaught from three-point land in the second, but they went cold from the field and failed to adjust their shot selection. While Denver bricked three after three, Charlotte found easy looks down low. In the first quarter, both teams scored 14 points in the paint — but by the time the two teams headed for the locker room, Charlotte held a 36-26 advantage on such points.
Those ten points were the difference in the quarter as Charlotte outscored Denver 37-27. The Nuggets’ lead, which was once as high as 14, completely evaporated. Charlotte would actually re-take the lead on a Walker jumper about halfway through the quarter, but Denver was able to stop the bleeding and regain control. The Nuggets carried a slim 63-62 lead into the half.
Kemba Walker — who finished the first quarter with just two points — dropped ten points on 3-4 shooting from the field in the second. He and Howard, who finished the half with 15, were the only Hornets in double figures. Harris, Will Barton, and Jamal Murray scored 17, 15 and 10 respectively for Denver. Jokic added seven rebounds and five assists.
The threes began to fall again in the third quarter for Denver; the Nuggets took 10 such attempts and drilled seven of them. They were also the beneficiaries of some strong offensive play from Jamal Murray. The 20-year old absolutely took over — as he’s become wont to do. The Blue Arrow scored eight consecutive points to spark an 8-0 run that boosted the Nuggets’ lead back into comfortable territory.
What followed was a much improved effort on the defensive end. After dropping 37 points in the second, Charlotte was held to just 22 points in the third. Denver’s lead was back up to double digits as they led 97-84 headed into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was a relatively uneventful affair. The Nuggets would push their lead up to 19 and it would never dip below 10 as Nuggets fans began to exit the arena with several minutes still remaining. With three days off on the horizon and Charlotte on the wrong end of a back-to-back, Malone left his core of Murray, Harris, Barton, and Jokic in for most of the quarter. They kept their foot on the gas and secured an important 121-104 victory to keep their momentum rolling.
Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, and Will Barton were the high-scorers for Denver, finishing with 27, 18, and 18 points respectively. Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 20 points.
Following the win, the Nuggets improve to 29-25 on the season and 22-7 at the Pepsi Center. They’ll have three days off before traveling to Houston to take on James Harden and the Houston Rockets.