The Denver Nuggets went into Thursday’s game on the second night of a back-to-back after cruising to a victory over the Charlotte Hornets at the Pepsi Center the night before.
Against Charlotte, the Nuggets lost starting point guard Jamal Murray for the foreseeable future with a left ankle injury while Gary Harris and Paul Millsap both missed the last few games. Injuries are never welcomed at any time, but they did open the door for the Nuggets young players to step up in his absence.
In Denver’s 134-131 overtime thriller against the Golden State Warriors, the Nuggets rallied back in the second half to ensure the victory and with that, I give you, the good, bad and ugly.
Good – Young players step up
In a game that the Nuggets were down by as many as 19 points against the team with the worst record in the NBA, there are not many things to look at and be excited about.
The Nuggets did not come out with great energy, the defense was nonexistent for most of the night and Denver turned the ball over a bit too much, but one positive for the game was the young guys stepping up.
Nikola Jokic and Will Barton III were the only starters for the Nuggets to play on Thursday with Murray, Harris, and Millsap sitting with ailments of their own so Denver looked for their young guys to take over and they delivered.
With the Nuggets adding to the rotation this season, Malik Beasley has been a player that has fallen out of the rotation and he has had to battle for minutes all year long.
He has played very seldom for the Nuggets this season, but when he is in the game he has shown up.
Beasley is a player capable of having lights-out shooting moments, he provides great energy and his outside shot opens things up for the Nuggets second unit.
In Thursday’s game, that was on full display as he finished with a season-high 27 points off of the bench.
Beasley provided a much-needed spark for the Nuggets as he knocked down five 3-pointers in the game. He played hard on the defensive end as he finished with three steals, got in the open court and finished with his best game of the season.
Michael Porter Jr. was also added to the mix. After a sluggish start to the game, he picked it up in the second half as he recorded his first career double-double. He had one of the best defensive games of his career, made plays for others for easy baskets and also hit some tough shots.
Hand in his face? No problem for MPJ 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Rl2xrCY2SK
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 17, 2020
Porter got some meaningful minutes against the Warriors and turned them in for one of his most productive nights. He hit some timely shots and earned head coach Michael Malone’s trust to close out the game.
When the Nuggets can get this type of production from two of their young and bright stars with their starters back healthy and also playing well, an already dangerous bench will become even more dangerous.
Bad – Disastrous first quarter
The Nuggets got off to another disastrous start and it had them playing from behind for the rest of the game.
Denver struggled mightily not only scoring the ball with a few of their starters missing the game due to injury, but they also were not able to get any stops as well.
The Nuggets had one of their worst opening quarters of the season as they trailed 34-19 at the end of the first frame.
There were mental defensive lapses, players not getting back on defense, they were also leaving the Warriors three-point shooters alone for open looks and Golden State made them pay.
Denver trailed 34-19 at the end of the opening frame and it was because of sloppy play. Golden State’s starters came out hot and their bench sustained that momentum against Denver’s second unit as Golden State’s reserves had a 13-9 advantage after the first quarter.
The Nuggets only shot 21% from the field and were able to only record one assist. They forced shots playing isolation basketball, could not finish in transition and also finished the quarter with seven turnovers.
With so many starters out for the Nuggets, it was assumed that Nikola Jokic would start the game out more aggressive, but he could not get anything going. After the first quarter, he was scoreless going 0-3 from the field and turned the ball over a couple of times with the Warriors doubling him seemingly every time he touched the ball.
Denver was on the second night of a back-to-back and were without key players which led to their slow start and issues with cohesion, but the Nuggets still have to find ways to buckle down defensively and run the offense through their best player to get off to a better start.
Ugly – Sloppy game for Denver
There are negative repercussions to not having three starters in the game.
Timing and cohesion are the two places that sloppiness manifested. It took the Nuggets a long time to get on the same page, but somehow the Nuggets pulled it all together at the end of the game to pull off the overtime victory.
There was plenty of ugly in this game as the Nuggets struggled to get themselves going early, fought to get back in the game, made their push and then closed the Warriors out in overtime, but this was still a game that the Nuggets did not play too well in.
For as great as Jokic played down the final stretch, there were parts of this game that he looked out of it.
He was not aggressive early on, was a bit careless with the ball and threw some errant passes in which Golden State took off with and scored on.
Jokic had a season-high nine turnovers which helped the Warriors gain momentum and get out to a big lead before Jokic finally settled down and turned it on.
Torrey Craig and Jerami Grant also struggled as starters. This was a game that Craig had the opportunity to earn more minutes with Denver being down a couple of bodies and needing him to score a few easy baskets as well as add his normal defensive intensity.
Craig only played 16 minutes and went scoreless. He was 0-3 from the field, including 0-2 from beyond the arc and was a team-worst -15 in his time on the floor.
Grant finished with six points on 3-9 shooting from the field and went 0-3 from beyond the arc. He showcased his size, length and athleticism but also allowed a couple of rebounds to get by him and also has had issues with his fit as of late.
After a lethargic opening half, the Nuggets finally came into their own and started looking like the No. 2 team in the Western Conference which forced overtime. Thankfully for Plumlee making a few plays down the stretch and Barton III hitting some difficult shots a sloppy game for the Nuggets did not wind up being another embarrassing loss.