The Denver Nuggets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 tonight behind tremendous efforts from the Nuggets starting five, particularly Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

Jokic finished the game with 31 points on 12-of-17 from the field and 2-of-2 from three-point range, adding 11 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and two blocks. The Serbian center was absolutely dominant throughout the game, controlling the paint on both ends of the floor and orchestrating everything the Nuggets needed through three quarters. Jokic finished the game at +29 in a five-point victory, an impressive disparity and one highlighting just how good the Nuggets were with Jokic out there and how pedestrian they were when he sat.

It didn’t matter that Jokic looked like he wrestled a bear by the end of the game. The Serbian center just kept his head down and dominated anyway.

Jokic also passed Dan Issel tonight for the most rebounds in Denver Nuggets franchise history. Issel had 6,630 in a Nuggets uniform. After tonight, Jokic has 6,631, and it stands to reason that the gap will widen going forward as long as Jokic stays healthy. It’s an incredible accomplishment for Jokic, who doesn’t get enough credit for being a dominant rebounder when he’s such a dynamic scorer and playmaker.

Jamal Murray was unbelievable in the second half, scoring 26 points and controlling the tempo in an impressive manner. After beginning the game with a passing mindset and setting the table for Denver’s frontcourt players in the first half, Murray took over in the second half as a scorer and simply couldn’t be stopped. Whether it was Mikal Bridges, Royce O’Neale, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, or Nic Claxton, Murray gave buckets to everyone on the Nets. He also used his gravity to hit Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a key three-pointer in the clutch as well as Jokic on the short roll.

Murray finished the game with 32 points and nine assists of his own, adding five rebounds and two blocks in what was probably his best performance of the season.

Not to be outdone, Denver’s other three starters all played important roles. Michael Porter Jr. only scored 15 points, but he helped get Denver off to a strong start with eight quick points in the game. Porter’s efficiency continues to be impressive, as was his feel on both ends of the floor today. Aaron Gordon had 18 points on just six shot attempts, shooting 5-of-6 from the field and 8-of-9 from the free throw line. In his last seven games, Gordon is shooting 25-of-30 from the free throw line (83.3%) and showcasing an improved touch and willingness to get to the line. Finally, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot the ball poorly, but he made an aforementioned clutch three when it mattered while adding another five rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

All of Denver’s starters were double-digit plus-minus positives, but the game was close because of a poor bench performance. The Nuggets tried DeAndre Jordan in the first half and Zeke Nnaji in the second half at backup center, and neither option made much of a difference. Reggie Jackson struggled with his shooting efficiency today. Christian Braun and Julian Strawther struggled with their involvement within the flow of the game, basically standing on the perimeter every possession and watching Jackson. None of the times in which they got involved led to serious improvement either.

The only guy that had anywhere close to a positive outing was Peyton Watson, who continues to impress as a mainstay in the Nuggets rotation. Watson had nine points and three rebounds on 4/5 from the field and made another three-pointer, his fifth game in a row with at least one made three. Watson even closed the game as a defensive sub in the final minute, slashing to the rim for an And-1 dunk.

Unfortunately, Watson missed the free throw and fouled Cam Thomas on a made three-pointer on the ensuing possession, allowing a four-point play. It was a nice reminder that Watson, even though he has made several strides forward in the last two weeks, still has a long way to go.

Still, this was a good win for the Nuggets, a win against a Nets team they faced just six days ago in Denver. It’s difficult in the NBA to win back-to-back games against a team, but the Nuggets found a way, despite Brooklyn working hard for the upset. Denver won a nice battle, earned a road victory here, and will now travel to face the Charlotte Hornets on the second night of a back-to-back. Tonight’s win gave the Nuggets their sixth win in the last seven games, interrupted only by a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander buzzer beater. A win in Charlotte would complete a perfect 3-0 road trip, and the Nuggets have an opportunity while fully healthy to bank another road win if they do.

The Nuggets are clearly rounding into form, and tonight’s clutch win was a great example.

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