The Denver Nuggets are coming off of one of their most disappointing games all season long. On Saturday evening, they fell 120-112 to the New Orleans Pelicans without Anthony Davis.
The Nuggets have played incredible basketball for most of the season while at the Pepsi Center but they have not that same luck recently after back to back losses to the Utah Jazz and the Pelicans without their disgruntled superstar. After those two losses, Denver came into San Antonio looking to get back on track.
With the 103-104 loss to the Spurs in a game that Denver never led, the Nuggets are now riding a three-game losing streak and are looking for answers. With that, I give you the good, bad and ugly.
Good – Denver’ resiliency
The Nuggets were looking at a 14-point deficit with 4:27 remaining in the game, but after battling back, Denver found themselves just a single shot away from tying up the game. While many teams would have thrown in the towel in the fourth quarter with the odds against them, the Nuggets fought back to make it a game as they went on a 17-4 run in the final 5:36 to and had three chances to win.
Jamal Murray came alive in the fourth quarter as he scored 14 of his 25 points in the final 12 minutes of regulation including going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the final eight minutes of the game.
Paul Millsap made some key plays that will not show up on the stat sheet in the second half. He came through with big plays, stops and rebounds while bringing energy to the game in the second half which was pivotal for the Nuggets push.
Nikola Jokic also had another solid game. He finished with 22 points, six assists and had 10 rebounds while going an efficient 10-of-14 from the field.
Denver did not get the type of game that they are accustomed to from their bench unit and also had a troublesome first quarter in which they dug themselves a hole, but the Nuggets showed their resiliency as they fought back in the game they had no business winning. They were only one shot away from winning in a place that has not been kind to them for the past few years.
Bad – Bench unit is not the same
The Nuggets started out the season looking as if they had the deepest team in the NBA. Their bench unit was clicking and was one of the big reasons that they were winning games.
As of late they have not been that same bunch.
Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has been having to reconfigure his rotation with the Nuggets now healthy and things have not yet clicked for that bench unit.
Besides the play of Torrey Craig, the second unit was atrocious on Monday.
Mason Plumlee might possibly have had his worst game of the year. He finished with a plus/minus of -18 and did not score in the game. Malik Beasley scored 15 points, but was a -11 in the game. The point guard duo of Isaiah Thomas and Monte Morris has been a nightmare to watch for the past couple of weeks.
Morris and Thomas have not found a way to mesh with each other. Morris’ role has shifted and his play has fallen off in a big way. In San Antonio, he finished with only four points and only shot went 2-8 from the field and only had one assist to go against one turnover. Thomas had seven points and two assists, but went 3-of-11 in just 15 minutes. Morris has not been strong since the All-Star break. Him and Thomas need to figure out how to play with one another sometime soon or else Denver may have to choose between the two of them.
The Nuggets desperately need their bench production back and quickly.
Ugly — Awful first quarter
Denver has not won in San Antonio since 2012 and that drought will continue after the Nuggets could not find a way to pull out a win on Monday. The Spurs were the hungrier team and played as if they desperately wanted the win from the opening whistle.
There were plenty of moments to point at when explaining why the Nuggets could not secure the win, but their first quarter issues is where Denver struggled most.
It is going to be difficult to win a game when your defense gives up 36 points in the first quarter to a team as talented as the Spurs. To make matters worse, Denver could not score on the opposite end either. Denver was down 17-36 at the end of the first quarter and shot an awful 7-of-23 from the field including going 1-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Denver cannot continue having rough beginnings to games. It is extremely difficult to win games in the NBA, but allowing the opposing team an upper hand at the end of the first quarter each and every night makes things that much more taxing for the rest of the game. Denver found that out the hard way on Monday night.