It has been a long time since the Denver Nuggets were fully healthy, but as they prepared to battle with the Phoenix Suns, they inched closer and closer to that reality.
They welcomed back two of their players off of the injury report in Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant while also having Jordan McRae, Keita Bates-Diop and Noah Vonleh active for the first time after acquiring them via trade prior to the deadline. So instead of playing with just seven healthy players, the Nuggets had some depth to utilize.
Jamal Murray showed up in a huge way and led the Nuggets to their win and with that, here are the good, great and awesome from Denver’s victory.
Good – Reinforcements begin to arrive
It has been over a month since the Nuggets were whole.
At times they were down one starter and others they were down three starters and multiple key reserves, but those days seem like they are slowly becoming part of the past where they will hopefully stay.
After missing 16-straight and 20 of the last 26 games with a left knee contusion/sprain, Millsap finally returned to the hardwood for the Nuggets, but he did not immediately return to the starting lineup. He came off the bench and added 12 points, 11 rebounds and four assists while also providing a lift for Denver’s defense.
Grant also returned for the Nuggets after missing just one game with a right ankle sprain. He ended up starting at power forward and while his production was not reflected well in the box score
In addition to Millsap and Grant returning, Denver also had the benefit of having all three players they traded for active and ready to go. Vonleh and McRae did not play, but Bates-Diop did. He was Denver’s reserve power forward and he did quite a few good things.
He finished with just four points and two rebounds, but his defense was strong as was his decision making. In his 14 minutes, Denver outscored the Suns by six points.
Denver finally has some depth to utilize for the first time in about a month.
Great – Jamal Murray continues to thrive since returning
Jamal Murray has admitted that his ankle is not 100% healthy and that he is playing through pain, but when looking at his play since returning — especially against the Suns — you would not think Murray was playing hurt.
Murray was as efficient as anyone could hope when taking on Phoenix. He was taking great shots all game long, finding open teammates with regularity and actively hunting 3-pointers which in turn opened up the rest of the Nuggets offense.
Murray finished the game with 36 points on 14-17 shooting and 6-8 from deep to go with five rebounds and five assists as he helped Denver secure yet another road win.
Murray is now 32-54 from the field and 13-23 from three-point range since returning from his injury as he continues to devastate defenses with his shooting ability. Hopefully this is a sign of what is to come and no just a blip.
Awesome – Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez thrive in their debuts with Minnesota
This has nothing to do with Denver’s win, but Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez were big parts of the Nuggets locker room for years and it wold feel wrong to not mention just how great each of them were in their debut for the Timberwolves.
Both Beasley and Hernangomez started for Minnesota in their debuts and they led the Timberwolves to a 142-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Beasley had 23 points on 8-19 shooting and 7-13 from three-point range to go with 10 rebounds and four assists. Hernangomez also had a strong game with 14 points and three rebounds on 4-6 shooting and 3-3 from deep.
Both Beasley and Hernangomez were more than likely not going to be with the Nuggets next season if they traded them or not so their loss, while frustrating, is something that seems unavoidable. Because of that, there will be fans who are upset that Denver lost them, but I would argue this is a time to be happy that both Hernangomez and Beasley are in a spot where they can play, grow, and succeed.
The Nuggets front office prides themselves in doing right by their guys and they did so with both Beasley and Hernangomez and that choice has already paid off dividends. After Minnesota’s win over the Clippers, the Nuggets took sole possession of the second seed in the Western Conference.
Both Beasley and Hernangomez are still finding ways to help the Nuggets even from a different team.