Nuggets look to win 9 in a row without Murray for fourth straight game

Feb 8, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Monte Morris (11) controls the ball ahead of Milwaukee Bucks guard D.J. Augustin (12) in the third quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets look to push their winning streak to nine on Sunday afternoon against the Boston Celtics. They currently have the longest active winning streak in the league right now at 8 and have been able to beat some quality teams during that stretch. 

They have also won 17 of their last 20 games beating the top teams in the NBA including the Sixers, Bucks, and Clippers while the Celtics, who are on a 2-game winning streak, have lost 9 of their last 20 games. The Celtics have been on a decline as of late and have been in and out of the eastern conference standings. They’re currently in seventh with a 27-26 record. 

The last time these two teams faced off back on February 6th, the Celtics won 112-99 behind Jaylen Brown’s 27 points, Jayson Tatum’s 21 and Kemba Walker who went off for 17. The Nuggets struggled with their three-point shooting going 9 of 34. Michael Porter Jr finished the night with zero points on 0-8 shooting from the field but was a plus 2 on the night. Nikola Jokić dominated per usual scoring 43 points on 16-23 shooting from the field and Jamal Murray added 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting from the field. 

Since that game, a lot has changed. The Nuggets have improved drastically on both ends of the floor and Porter Jr. has elevated his game to an elite level. He is averaging 21 points on 59 percent shooting from the field, 45 percent shooting from long range and 9 rebounds in the month of April. The Nuggets are second in the league in field goal percentage at 44 percent and fourth in scoring averaging 115.6 points per game. 

Most importantly, Denver acquired Aaron Gordon in a trade with the Orlando Magic and have been undefeated since, winning seven straight since his arrival. The impact was almost immediate and the fit was seamless. He’s averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds per game but it’s what he has been doing that can’t be seen on the stat sheet that has been most impressive. 

“He just opens it up for all of us,” Porter Jr said of Gordon’s presence on the floor. “Teams don’t really know right now who to put on who… He’s such a good transition player. He’s so athletic and he can step out and shoot it and he can pass so he has the whole package. He makes it easier on all of us.”

The game has also been much easier for Gordon as well playing alongside the best big man in the game in Jokić, who runs the floor like a point guard. The MVP candidate and 3x NBA All-Star has assisted on 18 Gordon baskets in the 7 games he has played for the Nuggets, which is three more assists than any Magic player threw to Gordon this season according to NBA.com. 

“In the locker room he’s like, ‘These are the easiest baskets I’ve gotten in my whole career,’” Monté Morris said of Gordon. 

The urgency to win NOW is there and you can feel it on the floor every night. This 8-game winning streak has been no easy task, though. The Nuggets have had to grind some of them out for all four quarters. Currently sitting in 4th in the Western Conference, the Nuggets are striving for an even higher seed so letting off the gas is no option at this point. 

“I feel like we still want more respect,” Monté Morris said. “I think we are still trying to prove ourselves to ourselves that we’re really good but also to the world…The West is so deep and we still don’t get a lot of credit so we still got a lot of work to do.”

Morris is coming off of a big night on Friday scoring 21 points on 7-8 shooting from the field and 5-5 from downtown against the Spurs. The Nuggets somehow pulled that one out 121-119. 

This team has overcome a lot of challenges from injuries resulting in several different lineups, a trade that allowed no time for players to get acclimated to and limited practice time but they’ve made no excuses. They embrace the challenges and enjoy the underdog role. 

“You better like it because we are constantly overlooked,” Michael Malone said pregame. 

Murray has been out of the lineup for the past three games due to knee soreness and will miss this matchup against the Celtics as well. His absence is missed but the Nuggets have been holding it down without him. 

Both Tatum and Brown who were listed as questionable are now upgraded to “likely to play,” according to Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Malone said it doesn’t matter whether they play or not. The Nuggets have to be locked in regardless. 

“For us right now, [we are] focusing on not just Boston, but about being the best version
of ourselves, whether Tatum and Brown play or they don’t,” Malone said. “We have to continue to aspire to be our best and we are 17 – 3 in our last 20 [games]; best record in the NBA during that stretch, which is great. But last game, obviously the 15 blow bys for 29 points, the 18 turnovers for 30 points. There are so many things that we can be better at that has nothing to do with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, so [we have to] concentrate and focus on the task at hand.”

The Nuggets Celtics game tips off at 3pm EST on NBATV.

 

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