While the majority of basketball junkies in Las Vegas were treating themselves to the first matchup between first overall pick Ben Simmons and the second overall selection Brandon Ingram, it was the Denver Nuggets who gave the loud, rambunctious, and Nuggets-heavy crowd a show to the tune of a 106-62 slaughtering of the Memphis Grizzlies. While it is easy to point at the explosion of Jimmer Fredette and the surprising outburst of frenchman Petr Cornelie it was a culmination of much more then just that pair.
Axel Toupane was extremely integral in the victory tonight. While his box score does not jump off of the page, Toupane played a compete game on both ends of the floor. He finished the night with 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists, but he was much more than that to a Nuggets team that was playing without Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris. Toupane had zero turnovers, shot 5-8 from the field and played arguably the best defense on the team.
Toupane was a large reason why the Nuggets held the Grizzlies to 2-26 from the three-point line. He even acted as a “point-forward” when Jamal Murray was having issues with heavy on-ball pressure. To have a highly versatile and defense-minded wing on your bench, especially with two injury-prone wings ahead of him on the depth chart, it seems that Axel Toupane may be on the fast track to sticking with the team once final roster cuts come.
Josh Adams also had himself a beauty of a game doing all of the little things. While seven points, two assists, and four rebounds does not seem like much, he provided a steady hand off the bench as the back up point guard. Adams played fantastic defense all game and got hot in the third quarter, scoring seven straight points. He also finished the game with zero turnovers and portrayed himself very well for any team looking for a third point guard. Having the ability to light it up from beyond the arc, jump out of the gym, have defensive intensity, AND run the point guard position the right way is a skill-set highly valued in the NBA. Look for Adams to potentially sign an NBA contract once Summer League ends.
Petr Cornelie had himself the definition of a breakout performance. After a zero point and six rebound game to start off his NBA career he bounced back with a vengeance. Cornelie came out of the gate looking to rebound with more aggression and to make himself known. He finished the game with 19 points, seven rebounds, and one three-pointer made. His impact was felt all over the court and his defensive instincts seemed a bit better then originally seen. He skied high to block a shot and showed the ability to score on put-backs, from the three-point line, and on lobs. Add in a gorgeous possession where he switched onto the perimeter and kept containment by moving his feet effortlessly well. There may be a monster hiding inside of Petr Cornelie.
Jamal Murray would be the antithesis to this entire article. While all of the Nuggets played very well, it was Murray that struggled the most. After the news came down that Gary Harris and Emmanuel Mudiay would not be participating, the primary ball-handling fell to Jamal Murray for the first time. He struggled with on-ball pressure from the start to the end of the game and did not find a way to create space for himself to get shots. While he is still 19 years old and this was his first game running the point it was still scary to see Murray struggle to create space for himself or others. Murray finished the day with four assists and five turnovers while shooting 2-11 from the field. Summer League head coach, Micah Nori, took most of the blame himself saying that they were not running plays to get Murray room and that he struggled to create good looks out of time-outs.
And now we come to the Jimmer. Every time his name was said there was raucous amounts of cheers. Out the gate it seemed that Jimmer was here to prove that he belongs. He had 26 points on 9-18 shooting including 4-8 from beyond the arc without playing in the 4th quarter. To put it plainly Jimmer Fredette lit up the Cox Pavilion and the Memphis Grizzlies. Jimmer was a team-high +38 in only 26 minutes of play. Wonderful game.
Box score from NBA.com: