The Denver Nuggets stepped on the gas on the second night of a back-to-back, blowing out the Chicago Bulls 123-101 through a strong second half effort.

Nikola Jokić led the way with 28 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. He was a +33 in his 33 minutes tonight, and the Nuggets were simply unstoppable with him running the show.

Michael Porter Jr. also contributed 27 points of his own, including 19 in the second half. Porter stepped up and filled a void in the wake of a Jamal Murray hamstring injury that sidelined the star point guard from the second quarter onward. Porter shot 7-of-9 from the field and 3-of-4 from three in the second half, hitting the gas right when the Nuggets needed him.

Here mare my takeaways from the Nuggets matchup with the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night:

Nuggets blitz Bulls in 3rd quarter

Through the first half, the Nuggets were up-and-down, committing several turnovers,

The second half was a master class from Nikola Jokić and Michael Porter Jr.. The Serbian center scored 13 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and dished out three assists in the third quarter alone. He was in complete control of the game, and the Nuggets were +18 in his individual minutes during that stretch. The way in which Jokić tips the ball to himself and always seems to come up with the rebound is incredible. Even if he’s battling two other players, Jokić often finds a way to do things others just cannot do.

“He mentally dominated the game today,” Reggie Jackson opined to Jokić’s performance. “That was fun to be on the court with him and at times I’d be sitting there watching him…he controlled the entire game.”

Porter was also awesome in the second half. With Murray out, Porter found pockets of space to be aggressive. Porter scored 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the second half and clearly had it going. His three-pointer appears to be back on track, and even though he started the game at just 1-of-4 from three, he hit 4-of-6 from then onward and was tremendous when he had to be.

“Just trying to be aggressive, trying to run the floor,” Porter shared of his mentality in this game. “Just getting in better shape and making myself tired out there…I just feel like the better shape I’m in, the more I’m able to have a motor and keep going.”

Jamal Murray exits with injury

Early in the second quarter, Murray was battling with Alex Caruso up and down the floor. At some point in dealing with the pressure, Murray started limping and asked out of the game soon after. Murray went directly into the tunnel and didn’t emerge again. It was later revealed that Murray had a hamstring injury and would miss the rest of the night. Malone spoke postgame about Murray’s injury and said the Nuggets wanted to be very cautious.

In his place, Reggie Jackson started the third quarter, and it was two-way contract guard Collin Gillespie who ran the backup point. Jackson finished the game with 16 points and three assists, running good actions with Jokić and the starters in the third quarter to generate a strong lead. Gillespie entered and played with Jokić too, hitting a three, scoring on a back cut, and picking up right where Jackson left off.

“We believed in Collin,” Malone shared postgame. “The night of the draft, I was hoping he wouldn’t get drafted because we wanted him.”

Gillespie finished with five points, two assists, and a game ball from Malone for how he handled the situation. He fit in well, and that’s all he needed to do for the Nuggets to get the W.

The Nuggets use Jokić to initiate so many sets that it wasn’t a problem in the moment, but Murray’s absence will be something to monitor over an extended stretch. The Nuggets will likely start Jackson and stagger him with the second unit, so expect Julian Strawther to also get some time.

What’s Next

The Nuggets have a night off before returning to Ball Arena on Monday night and facing the New Orleans Pelicans.

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