Nuggets’ win streak comes to an end in Charlotte

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) shoots the ball over Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) in the first half at Spectrum Center.
Dec 7, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) shoots the ball over Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) in the first half at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets seven-game win streak came to a close Friday night as they fell 113-107 on the road to the Charlotte Hornets.

With the loss, Denver’s record moves to 17-8, which is tied for first place in the Western Conference with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Denver moves to 3-1 on their current five-game road trip as they still post one of the best road records in the NBA at 8-5.

After walking away with a overtime victory against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night, the Nuggets went into Charlotte looking for another win over an Eastern Conference opponent. The game did not start great for Denver though as the shots were not falling early and the complete opposite was occurring for the Hornets. At the 5:08 mark of the first quarter, Denver trailed 14-8 as they started the game just 3-of-10 shooting from the field. Paul Millsap began the game with six early points for the Nuggets, but everyone else’s shots were just not falling.

Millsap’s solid first quarter continued as the Nuggets were able to cut their deficit to 18-16 with 2:17 remaining in the first quarter. Headband Paul was at it again as he finished the first quarter with 12 points on an efficient 3-5 shooting from the field to go along with an almost perfect 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. The spark Millsap provided was key in the Nuggets taking a 25-24 lead into the second quarter as they finished the period 9-of-19 shooting from the field, while Charlotte shot just 8-of-20 from the floor.

Denver’s struggles returned to start the second quarter as the Nuggets normally reliable bench unit allowed the Hornets to begin the period on an 8-2 run. That run gave Charlotte a five-point lead with 10:33 remaining in the half as the bench unit struggled to find a rhythm on both ends of the floor. Charlotte’s run would reach 13-2 in the quarter before a couple three-pointers by Trey Lyles and Malik Beasley cut the Nuggets deficit back down to five with 7:10 left in the period.

That deficit would not last long for Denver as the Hornets continued to score the ball at an extreme pace to stretch their lead to 55-41 with 4:01 left in the half. Charlotte’s bench play from Tony Parker and Malik Monk was key in the Hornets lead as the two combined for 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting off the bench in the first half. The play of Parker and Monk contributed to 38 first half bench points for the Hornets, which was a 14-point difference from what the Nuggets second unit had in half number one.

After some back and fourth minutes to close the second quarter, Denver would take a 64-53 deficit into half number two in large part to being outscored 40-28 before halftime. The Nuggets deficit was in large part to the play of Monk and Parker, but Marvin Williams also had a big first half for Charlotte with 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting from three-point range. The Hornets as a team shot 8-of-17 from distance in the first half, which was a much higher mark than the Nuggets 5-of-17 number at the break.

Millsap still led the Nuggets in scoring at the half with 14 points, while Beasley was not far behind with 10 points of his own. Another notable stat line from the Nuggets first half came from Juancho Hernangomez, who had nine points on an efficient 4-of-5 shooting from the field. With Gary Harris out with a right hip injury, the Nuggets certainly missed his scoring presence in the first half as the rest of the Nuggets starters (Jamal Murray, Torrey Craig, Nikola Jokic) combined to score just six points after the games first 24 minutes.

It looked as if Denver was going to get back into the game after starting the second half on a 4-0 run, but the Hornets quickly responded to keep their lead in double-figures. The Nuggets comeback ability was on full display though as they would go on yet another 4-0 run to cut the Hornets lead to 72-66 with 6:56 left in the third quarter. Denver’s play to start the half was sparked by Beasley, who subbed in just minutes into the quarter and provided the Nuggets with immediate energy off the bench.

The Nuggets began the third on a 15-8 run and displayed a sense of urgency and energy that was lacking most of the first half. That aggressive mindset was big in the Nuggets eventually cutting the deficit all the way down to one with just two minutes left in the third quarter.

Charlotte would quickly answer though as their second unit mounted a 7-0 run to close the quarter to give the Hornets a 87-79 lead through three periods. The Nuggets would end up out scoring the Hornets 26-23 in the third quarter, but Denver still trailed by eight headed into the final frame.

In search of their eighth-straight win, the Nuggets had to put together a big fourth quarter if they were going to keep their winning streak alive. The Nuggets did just that to start the period as they began the quarter on a 5-2 run to cut the Hornets lead to 89-84 with 9:03 left in the game. Charlotte would not go away though as they were able to stretch their lead back up to 13 points with 5:45 left in the game as the Hornets continued to answer every single one of Denver’s runs.

A couple Jokic baskets allowed the Nuggets to cut the lead back down to eight, but the Hornets still had firm control on the game with 3:04 remaining. The Nuggets kept battling though as they gave themselves a chance and only trailed 106-100 with 1:30 left in the game. A Monte Morris three-pointer with 1:13 left made it a one possession game as the Nuggets looked to complete an improbable fourth quarter comeback.

The Nuggets effort to even have a chance in the closing minutes was exceptional, but Parker was not having it as he hit a tough basket with just under a minute left to stretch Charlotte’s lead back up to five. Charlotte would execute a tremendous block on the Nuggets next possession to put the proverbial nail in the coffin for Denver’s chances. A couple free-throws later and the Hornets would capture a 113-107 lead over the Nuggets.

Stat leaders for the Nuggets were Millsap, who finished the night with 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field before having to exit the game with a right foot injury. Other big stat lines came from Hernangomez, who had a career game finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds to record his second double-double of the season. Hernangomez shot an almost perfect 6-of-9 from the field, while also chipping in two assists, two blocks, and one steal. Beasley (16), Murray (20), and Jokic (15) all finished with double-figure point totals as well, while Jokic also had a double-double finishing with 11 rebounds and six assists.

The Nuggets have a quick turn around as they are back in action tomorrow night in Atlanta to face the Hawks. This will be the second time the Nuggets have faced Atlanta this season, after they won 138-93 in the two teams first matchup just a couple of weeks ago.