Nuggets playing inspired basketball for Jamal Murray after winning two straight

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Mar 24, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) moves to the basket against the Toronto Raptors during the first half at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets are playing some inspired basketball since Jamal Murray went down with a season ending ACL injury. Nikola Jokić put on another stellar performance with 29 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists in a blowout 128-99 win over the Rockets. Jokić has been holding it down and has led the Nuggets to a 2-game winning streak. He had a triple double last game. 

“It’s a tremendous positive impact,” Michael Malone said of having the top MVP candidate on his team. “His finger prints are all over everything we do. Offensively, defensively, locker room, culture, huddles, whatever you want to talk about Nikola is going to be in the mix. He has that kind of impact.” 

Jokić is at the top of the leader board for MVP according to NBA.com (and to anyone with common sense). He’s averaging 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists this season and hasn’t missed one game. Malone says he’s a clear lock for MVP. 

“For me I’m definitely biased and I admit that but what makes him the MVP is yes the availability, he hasn’t missed any games,” Malone said. “He has this team, with lots of new players, we got guys in and out all season, still in the top 4 of a very deep and talented Western Conference and then you talk about his stats, his efficiency.” 

Malone also appreciates the fact that Jokić doesn’t take selfies and post them to social media like the rest of the league does.

“I really get a kick out of this: guys that love taking pictures of themselves and posting that,” Malone said. “Who does that? I’ve never seen Nikola once take a picture of himself and post it and that’s what I love about him on top of being a great player.”

It’s clear the impact Jokić has on Denver night in and night out. He’s the glue that holds it all together and even on an off night he’s still on. In Friday nights game in Houston, Jokić was red hot from the field and per usual had some incredible no look passes. 

Denver went on an 11-2 run early the first quarter and never looked back. Michael Porter Jr scored 11 of his 26 points in the first shooting 4 of 5 from the field and Jokić added 10. The Nuggets took a 35-28 lead. 

Second quarter, the Nuggets maintained control on both ends of the floor. They shot 59 percent from the field and went to the free throw line 10 of their 31 times, something we haven’t seen much of. Malone has been pleading for more calls and on Friday night he got them. Denver also had a lot of action off the bench which has been an area of focus as of late. Paul Millsap scored 4 straight points and PJ Dozier and JaMychael Green added a few buckets. The Nuggets second unit outscored the Rockets’ bench 14 to 8. 

“We’ve talked about that and that’s something that we needed to focus on especially these last two games.” Porter Jr said of the bench’s production. “Third quarter we did a good job of extending that lead which is something we struggled with this season.”

The Nuggets scored 34 points in the paint and took a 69-49 lead at halftime. Jokić finished the first half with 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting from the field while Porter Jr. added 16 points on 6 of 9. 

On top of that, the defense off the bench also contributed to such a big lead. Facundo Campazzo went to work on John Wall, holding him to just 10 points and forcing 7 turnovers in the first half. 

“I think Facu is first team defense,” Green said. “I don’t care how many minutes he plays. I really feel like he plays the best defense. I feel like he can lock down anybody he is assigned to.”

in the third quarter, the Nuggets bench turned a 20 point lead into a 29 point lead. Campazzo added 6 points on 2 of 3 shooting from the field. Jokić continued to dominate in the starting minutes of the third scoring 12 points in the quarter. Denver went on a 13-5 run.

Fourth quarter, the Nuggets outscored the Rockets 28-20. Green had 9 points in the quarter on 4 of 5 from the field and finished the night with 13 points off the bench. Both Dozier and Millsap added 11. 

As a team, the Nuggets had 32 second chance points to the Rockets 14 and they dominated them on the glass 54-35 in their 128-99 blowout victory.

Denver now has the next two days off, which for some may be a nice breather, but for Porter Jr he doesn’t really like rest days. 

“Honestly I don’t really look forward that much to off days,” Porter Jr. said. “I like to do stuff everyday, keep moving, do something to get better. A couple days off or a day off doesn’t really affect me too much.”

They Nuggets face the Grizzlies at home on Monday night before hitting the road for two straight games. 

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