The Denver Nuggets defeated the Houston Rockets 133-112  on Tuesday night in a relatively straightforward blowout win.

The starters helped build a 20-point lead in the first half that was maintained for the rest of the game. Jamal Murray was a big part of that with 32 points and 6 assists in dominant fashion. Michael Porter Jr. had 17 efficient points. Bruce Brown scored 15 pointes off the bench.

Nikola Jokić also produced the 100th triple-double of his career (regular season) by putting up 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in 28 minutes. Jokić shot 7-of-11 from the field and didn’t attempt a three. He made the game look extremely easy matching up with Rockets second year center Alperun Sengun, who just didn’t have the size or defensive acumen to slow any of Jokić’s moves down.

Overall, this game was over in the first half. The Rockets made various pushes in the third and fourth quarter, but the Nuggets answered every single Rockets scoring run with a scoring run of their own. It was like playing a video game on easy mode.

Here are my takeaways from the Nuggets matchup with the Rockets on Tuesday night:

Jamal Murray shakes off injuries and dominates

Throughout the last game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Murray appeared to be laboring through various injuries. There was skepticism that he would play against the Rockets today, but he clearly felt good enough to give it a go.

It’s a good thing he did, because Murray was fantastic tonight. He was aggressive early, looking to score and push the pace when he could. He was great on the catch-and-shoot, including a setup from Michael Porter Jr. initiating offense.

Overall, Murray produced 32 points and 6 assists while shooting 12-of-18 from the field and 5-of-10 from three-point range. He did so without forcing any shots either (unless they were late in the shot clock). Yes, it was against the Rockets, but this felt like a great reminder that the Nuggets are extremely difficult to beat when both Murray and Jokić have it going at the same time.

Nuggets starting unit is most connected in franchise history

This is definitely more of a “take” than a “takeaway” but it was pretty clear that the Nuggets starters were never going to lose this game. From the beginning, the five-man unit was locked in, scoring almost every possession and playing opportunistic defense without truly having to exert themselves. Plus-minuses ranged from +18 for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who staggered with the bench) to +31 for Jokić in 28 minutes. 27 points out of that 31-point positive margin came in the first half, and then the starters basically held serve in the second half without having to lift much of a finger.

Between Jokić, Murray, Porter, Gordon, and KCP, the Nuggets have the most talented starting unit in franchise history. More importantly though, this is the most connected group the Nuggets have ever had. They read the game and read each other so extremely well, turning bad shots into good shots and good shots into great shots almost every time down the floor. Each player appears fully bought into the role assigned, and it’s clear that if the Nuggets are ever going to win a championship, this may be their best opportunity to do so in franchise history. It’s entirely due to how single-minded the starting five is.

Bench lineups get some good run

It wasn’t always pretty with the bench, but the great thing about playing the Rockets is it affords the Nuggets a longer leash to play some lineups they couldn’t play for extended time against good teams. Tonight, the Nuggets played a nine-man rotation in both halves but were able to play an extended fourth quarter with the bench to iron out some chemistry.

Reggie Jackson and Thomas Bryant are the new additions, but their presence has clearly affected Bruce Brown and Vlatko Čančar as well. All four have looked uncomfortable at different moments, but tonight, that quartet shared the floor for roughly 17 minutes of game time. Each had good moments during those stretches, even if the plus-minus wasn’t as strong as it could have been. Jackson in particular had eight assists compared to one turnover in 20 minutes, running the show well and focusing on how to involve his teammates.

The Nuggets bench still isn’t settled, but they’re figuring things out, albeit slowly. Better to do so in a 20-point win rather than a loss.

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