The Denver Nuggets bounced back on Sunday against the now 3-33 Detroit Pistons with a 131-114 victory.

Jamal Murray in particular had a bounce back effort himself, scoring 37 points on 14-of-24 from the field, 3-of-8 from three, and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Murray was in his bag in the mid-range and driving to the rim, finding plenty of opportunities to create shots, using the gravity of both Nikola Jokic and DeAndre Jordan to slice and dice the Pistons’ abhorrent defense.

“Having shooters out there helps create some space for me to knock it down,” Murray shared of his night.

 “I think Jamal’s a guy…you can read him,” Head Coach Michael Malone shared of Murray wearing his emotions on his sleeve. “Jamal you can read very easily, and when he’s locked in and engaged, walking off the court at the end of the second quarter, I loved it. He’s telling all of the guys in the hallway, ‘we closed the half well, but it’s not about the offense, it’s about the defense. We gotta get stops. We gotta be more consistent on that end’…that is holding each other accountable. That is leadership, and we just need more of that.”

The Nuggets, after giving up back-to-back 40-point third quarters, were very aware of getting themselves ready to play in the second half. The Nuggets won the quarter 43-28 themselves, extending the lead and placing the game out of reach.

“I think we all as a team decided to get out there a little earlier,” Murray joked postgame with a grin. “We were in good spirits though, for real. We just wanted to hold ourselves accountable as well…I thought we did a good job of just coming ready to play.”

Malone changed up his bench rotation in this game, pulling Murray early in the first and third quarter and reinserting him into the second unit. The Nuggets played nine guys in the primary rotation, using both Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at times with the second unit to provide more structure. Murray took advantage by attacking the Pistons’ second unit guards, while Caldwell-Pope found open shot opportunities as well.

It’s not surprising that Denver was able to find success against Detroit, especially when Cade Cunningham left the game early and didn’t return. Denver will likely use a nine-man rotation going forward, with Michael Malone saying that wing Julian Strawther will be “out for a while” with a right knee contusion/sprain.

Nikola Jokic, in complete Nikola Jokic fashion, attempted just three shots tonight, making two of them in his 24 minutes. Jokic finished the game with four points, seven rebounds, and impressive tallies of 16 assists and five blocks. He could have scored if he wanted to, but he made some awesome plays as a passer and had some defensive plays to help Denver win the game instead.

“That is an unusual stat line,” Murray said of Jokic’s box score.

Today was Orthodox Christmas, and Jokic celebrated in his own way with an easy victory and an easy playmaking night.

“We know that he’s always capable of going in there 1-on-1. Nobody can stop him 1-on-1 in the league,” shared Peyton Watson postgame. “But he’s looking to get everybody involved and just makes everybody’s eyes light up, because how can I find ways to play the right way?”

Watson also found ways to be effective in his own right, scoring 13 points in the third quarter on a litany of impressive dunks and threes. Watson was aggressive in the second half and found ways to impact the game, especially in transition.

“I think it’s less about the skill and just more about the confidence,” Murray shared about Watson’s rapid growth. “I think he’s just playing confident and finding where he can score more, where he can make an impact on the game, defending. Even he’s not getting the ball, he knows he can get out there rebounding, trying to block shots, or doing something else.”

The Nuggets are very happy with Watson’s growth as he continues to find ways to improve in his second season.

Denver will have a couple days off before goin on the road to face the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. The Nuggets improved to 26-12 and are now percentage points ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for second place in the Western Conference.

Final Rotations