The Denver Nuggets went into Monday night’s game riding a three-game winning streak and were fresh off of a win against the Phoenix Suns where Jamal Murray exploded for 36 points.
Denver carried that momentum into Monday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs where they had to overcome a 23-point deficit but rallied back and had one of their best second-half performances of the season.
The Nuggets beat the Spurs 127-120 to move to 38-16 on the season which is their best start in franchise history and with that, I give you the good, bad and awesome.
Good – Paul Millsap shines on his birthday
The Nuggets looked down and out of the game in the first half and it would have been understood if head coach Michael Malone threw in the towel in the middle of this one.
With the Nuggets losing energy quickly and staring at a 20-point deficit with 4:59 in the third quarter, Malone looked to his veteran to give Denver a spark and what he did was put together one of the gutsiest performances that he has had in a Nuggets uniform.
On his 35th birthday, Millsap had a vintage night that not only got the Nuggets back into the game, but ended up winning Denver finishing with a victory.
The Nuggets had a sensational third quarter that was sparked by Millsap. Denver won the third frame 36-26 and got an extra push from their defensive anchor to get back into the game and won it from there. Millsap had eight points in the frame and also came up with some big rebounds, a block and great help-side defense that helped the Nuggets gather momentum.
He carried that momentum into the fourth quarter as he finished with 16 of his 22 points in the second half as he gave the Nuggets a lead before sitting for the rest of the game due to his minutes restriction.
The Nuggets showed resiliency and fight in the second half as they leaned on their veteran leader to show them the way and he did not disappoint which ultimately won them the game.
Bad – First quarter defensive struggles
This was a game that the Nuggets defense came out flat in and the Spurs made sure that they made them pay for it as they went up early and built a big lead.
The Nuggets trailed by 10 points after the opening frame as the Spurs hung 40 points on the Nuggets.
San Antonio’s 40-30 first-quarter lead was due to the fact that the Spurs were getting all of the shots that they wanted. They were 7-9 from beyond the arc as they got open looks, but the Spurs also made it a point to pass the ball around until they found the open man which kept the Nuggets defense moving and unable to rotate quick enough.
The Spurs shot 62% from the field in the opening frame and while their shot was falling from deep, they also got inside of the paint which opened up the offense and spaced the floor. LaMarcus Aldridge also seemed to have his way early on which set him up for his big night. Aldridge had 17 points after the first quarter as he went inside and finished, but also knocked down two 3-pointers as well.
The Nuggets offense struggled to get in sync, but were able to put some points up to keep them in the game early. The defense is the reason that the Nuggets trailed early on as they were not able to get many stops and that led to San Antonio getting off to a hot and confident start.
The Nuggets have to come out with more energy and give a more concerted effort on that end of the floor to open games so that they are not having to fight so hard late to get back in the game.
Awesome – Starters step up late
With the win, the Nuggets are now on a four-game winning streak and this one might have been the best win of them all.
Denver was dominated in the opening half before finally putting it together and having one of their best offensive halves of the entire season.
Nikola Jokic was named the Western Conference Player of the Week as he has been on a tear as of late. He averaged 27.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists a game for the Nuggets in their three wins last week as he has been aggressive and assertive on both ends of the floor. While he did not score in the same ways as last week, he still impacted the game in a major way.
The Nuggets All-Star finished with 19 points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds as he was the only Nuggets starter with a positive plus-minus. His production opened things up for Denver.
Millsap provided the spark that Denver needed to catch up, but it was Murray that helped close the Spurs out.
Murray has seemed to have come back from his ankle injury rejuvenated.
In the Nuggets three wins last week, he averaged 29 points per game and was ultra-efficient from the field which added another layer to the Nuggets offense.
Murray finished with 14 points in the fourth quarter as he had a team-high 26 points in the game and his ability to close the Spurs out is why the Nuggets won the game and are off to their best record in franchise history.