Good, Great & Ugly: Grant propels Nuggets to victory versus Pistons

Denver Nuggets forward Jerami Grant (9) reacts after making a basket against the New York Knicks during the second half at Madison Square Garden.
Dec 5, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Jerami Grant (9) reacts after making a basket against the New York Knicks during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets cruised to a 115-98 victory versus the Detroit Pistons Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.

Tuesday’s victory was Denver’s 40th win of the season as they became the second team to reach the 40-win threshold in the Western Conference.

Good – Jamal Murray and Jerami Grant step up

Jamal Murray was sizzling out of the gate for the Nuggets, scoring seven of Denver’s first nine points off two cuts and a 3-pointer.

Murray’s production was essential to Denver’s early momentum and he set the tone for Denver’s offense in the first 24 minutes of the matchup. Additionally, Murray was effective as a passer, which led to eight assists against just one turnover.

Since the end of the All-Star break, Murray has been getting more action with Denver’s bench and the results have been encouraging. While playing with the second unit, Murray slides down to the shooting guard position while Monte Morris takes control the offense. This has allowed Murray to play off of the ball more often which just further weaponizes his offensive skill set. Murray is known as a point guard who likes using the pick and roll (or dribble handoff) to create for himself and his teammates, but teams usually don’t scheme for his off-ball shooting as intensely. That means, when Murray is playing against opposing bench units, he is playing in a more unique manner than they anticipated and doing so against the opposing reserves which has led to strong results even if just in a small sample size of three games.

Even with Murray’s strong night, he could not do it alone and the player who stepped up next to him was Jerami Grant, who been an strong role player for the Nuggets throughout the season, but on Tuesday night he was excellent.

When the Pistons started to slowly erase the Nuggets’ lead in the third quarter, Grant stepped up to provide Denver with a boost. He made his presence felt all over the court by grabbing rebounds, locking down defensively the perimeter and hammering home a couple dunks.

Grant was efficient and on fire which meant that, in just under 30 minutes of game action, he had a career-high 29 points to go with five rebounds.

Great – Denver’s efficient offensive night

The Nuggets’ offense was mostly strong throughout the night.

Denver started the game hot, scoring 59 points through the first two quarters. Both Murray and Jokic were locked in and Denver’s offense was fluid.

However, as the game progressed, Denver’s offense cooled down in spots. The third quarter was especially brutal as the Nuggets had scored just six points by the time the seven-minute mark arrived. They could not buy a bucket in the third quarter, but thankfully their free throw shooting allowed them to maintain a safe distance from the Pistons.

Denver finished the game 18-22 from the charity stripe and wound up catching fire from beyond the arc late in the game, finishing with a 47.4% three-point percentage. Without their ability to get to the foul line and hit shots from deep later in the game, Denver likely would have watched their lead not only dwindle, but disappear. Instead, they continued to hit enough shots which is a very encouraging sign considering how rough their shooting was earlier in the season.

The Nuggets timely shooting ultimately propelled them past the Pistons despite their turnover woes which eventually allowed them to cruise to a comfortable victory.

Ugly – Turnovers rear their ugly head once again

Typically turnovers can kill a team’s momentum, but the Nuggets managed to fight through them on Tuesday night while battling with the Pistons. Denver had 11 turnovers before the game reached halftime, and the trend continued out of the break as the Nuggets finished with 18 turnovers by the final buzzer.

While the total number of turnovers is concerning, Denver managed to hold the Pistons to only 17 points off of their mistakes. Giving away 17 points will always be problematic, but at least Denver managed to get back on defense and keep the Pistons from scoring on occasion.

The Nuggets are typically pretty good at protecting the basketball They average just 12.7 turnovers per game which was the sixth-best mark in the NBA entering Tuesday’s contest. Hopefully Denver’s recent turnover issues are just a product of sloppiness after the All-Star break and not a symptom of a bigger issue.

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