Nuggets barely hold on to defeat Perth Wildcats

Denver Nuggets head coachMIchael Malone reacts on the sidelines in the first half of the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
Oct 2, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets head coachMIchael Malone reacts on the sidelines in the first half of the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

For the Denver Nuggets first and only home game of the 2018-19 preseason, they hosted the Perth Wildcats of the Australian National Basketball League — a team that lost by 58 points to the Utah Jazz six days earlier.

To make things even tougher for Perth, their game against the Nuggets was the first time when Denver had all of their starters healthy. Gary Harris, who missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring strain, was starting and Jamal Murray, who missed just the second preseason game due to an ankle injury, also started.

From the jump, it was clear how absurd the talent disparity was between the Wildcats and the Nuggets. Denver was barely going through the motions all the way throughout the first quarter and they had an 11-point lead by the time the buzzer sounded. Even though the Nuggets led 27-16 at the end of the first quarter, but things could have been significantly worse. Bryce Cotton, Perth’s point guard, had 14 of the Wildcat’s 16 points in the quarter and led all scorers after the first frame.

The second quarter was essentially Malik Beasley and Trey Lyles reigning down mortar fire from three-point distance. Beasley was a perfect 3-3 from three-point distance while Lyles was 2-3 from deep by the time halftime rolled around. The hidden gem of the second quarter was Monte Morris who had four assists against zero turnovers. He had the bench unit functioning like a well-oiled machine. Eventually, apathy kicked in for the Nuggets as their lead fell to just 10 points by halftime.

The extreme level of indifference that Denver played with in the first half percolated into the third quarter as well. The Nuggets starters were playing with lots of frustration and it led to Paul Millsap, usually the most even-keeled player on the roster, getting ejected after picking up back-to-back technical fouls. Millsap finished with five points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals, but also had four turnovers and shot just 2-7 from the field without hitting either of his two three-point attempts.¬†Denver’s lead fell to just one point and Malone finally took most of the starters off the floor and allowed the bench to come in and attempt to put the game away.

Unfortunately, no such thing happened. Denver went into the fourth and final quarter up 75-70. Jokic’s night ended in the third quarter and he accumulated just three points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, but had three turnovers and shot just 1-5 from the field. The only true bright spot from the starters was Harris’ debut. He had 13 points on 5-10 shooting to go with one rebound and two assists.

The Nuggets treaded water for the rest of the fourth quarter thanks to Beasley, who had 14 points and hit four three-point shots, and Morris, who finished with 15 points and nine assists. Mercifully, the final buzzer sounded and the Nuggets still managed to sneak out their third win of the preseason in as many tries by a score of 96-88.

Denver now travels back to Los Angeles to take on the Clippers on Tuesday, October 9th at 8:30pm MST looking to keep their preseason record perfect.

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