Good, bad & ugly: Nuggets get manhandled by Grizzlies

Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) reacts during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum.
Jan 28, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) reacts during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

After an emotional win over the Houston Rockets in the wake of the death of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and seven others, the Nuggets had to find a way to get their minds back on basketball, but next up was the Memphis Grizzlies, who were winners of eight of their last 10 games coming into their matchup with the Nuggets.

All night long, the Nuggets were out-played on offense, defense, in transition, and on hustle plays. Denver’s energy level was low, their pace was far too slow, and the Grizzlies overwhelmed them with effort and energy.

Denver made it a close enough game in the fourth quarter to make things interesting, but eventually were unable to find a way to grab a win as they lost 104-96 in Memphis. With that, I give you the good, bad, and ugly from Denver’s 15th loss of the season.

Good – Jerami Grant continues to find his groove

There was worry to begin the year that Grant was not the seemingly ideal fit that so many thought he was when Denver originally traded for him.

Now, after a couple months of finding his rhythm and role with this Nuggets team, Grant is starting to make his presence felt in a big way and his play against the Grizzlies furthered that fact.

Grant finished with 21 points in 38 minutes of action as he hit 7-9 of his three-point attempts. In addition to his outside scoring, Grant had four rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block. In a game where very little went right for Denver, Grant was one of the few bright spots which has been a common theme recently.

Over Grant’s last 11 games, he is averaging 15.5 points, five rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 47.2% from the field, 44.7% from three while also averaging 1.1 steals and 1.2 steals. It has not just been his counting stats though. Grant is also showing he can be an elite one-on-one wing defender and that his chemistry with Jokic keeps growing and growing.

On a night that the Nuggets struggled, Grant really was the only bright spot.

Bad – Nuggets play no defense once again

Denver’s dominant defense from the beginning of the year is long gone now.

After starting the year as a top-five defensive group, their defensive play has fallen off a cliff over the last 15 games and their loss to the Grizzlies was more evidence of just that.

Denver allowed the Grizzlies to score a NBA-best 46 points in the paint in the first half and that number continued to grow to an insane 76 points in the paint in total by the time the game had ended. Denver also allowed 19 fastbreak points which helped the Grizzlies come away with their ninth win in their last 11 games.

Memphis shot 56.1% from the field and 33.2% from three-point range to a dominant offensive performance.

What was most frustrating was seeing yet another opposing team share the ball like the Nuggets used to. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Grizzlies had dished out 32 assists as a team with nine different players recording more than one assist.

Ugly – Sloppy start

Denver could not have started out the game any worse.

By the time the first quarter ended, the Nuggets trailed 31-18 and that did not even convey just how bad they were.

On offense in the first quarter, Denver only had three assists because they only made five of their 20 attempted shots. They turned the ball over five times and did not have a single point in the paint. To make matters worse, they also were unable to execute in transition either.

On defense, the Nuggets allowed a whopping 13 fast break points and 22 points in the paint. Simply stated, the Grizzlies were running the Nuggets defense ragged and there was nothing Denver was able to do about it.

While this would normally not be a big deal, the fact that it is not an isolated event leads to concern. Denver has allowed 28 or more points in the first quarter in five-straight games. That has left them trying to dig themselves out of a hole from the very start of games which is not advantageous to winning; especially when playing on the road like Denver was on Tuesday night in Memphis.

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