The good, bad and ugly: Nuggets getting back on track

Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) passes in the second quarter against Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and forward Robert Covington (33) at Target Center.
Nov 21, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) passes in the second quarter against Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and forward Robert Covington (33) at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Although it is early in the season, the Denver Nuggets went into Wednesday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves looking at the challenge as a must-win game. Denver had lost six of the past seven games and were looking for answers as how to turn it around.

The Nuggets snapped a two-game losing streak as they got a big win against the Timberwolves edging them out 103-101. Although there were comments made such as “any win is a big win,” by head coach Michael Malone, it was an emotional win for the Nuggets against the team that eliminated Denver from the playoffs in game 82 of the 2017-18 season. Here is what Paul Millsap had to say after he scored a game-high 25 points including the final basket on the night to secure the victory.

“They put us out the playoffs last year,” Millsap said. “We feel like we were the better team for sure and tonight we proved it.”

Here is the good, bad and ugly after an emotional Nuggets win.

The Good – Huge Third Quarter

The Nuggets went into halftime down by six points to the Timberwolves and did not show much resistance on the defensive end, but they were good enough to stick around. Eventually, the game turned around thanks to Denver having a huge third quarter.

After keeping pace in the first quarter and letting the second quarter get away from them, Malone said that he challenged Denver at the half to do more. They responded with a 38-point third quarter. What was even more impressive about the third quarter was the Nuggets defense. Denver forced seven turnovers in the half and held Minnesota to 5-19 shooting in the quarter.

“The way that we responded in that third quarter I feel was phenomenal,” Malone said after the game.

Malone was impressed with how the defense responded in the second half and the third quarter was the jumpstart to the defensive run they went on. They were locked in, rotated quickly, and forced errant passes that turned into baskets on the opposite end. As long as Denver is locked in defensively, they have a chance to get back on the right track.

The Bad – Starters offensive woes

Denver got another grind-it-out win which is always a great thing early in the season; especially with such a young team, but it was the way that Denver won that made this win different. The Nuggets were only able to put up 103 points on the night. When taking a deeper look at the numbers, it was a miracle that Denver was able to pull out a victory in Minnesota.

Not counting Millsap’s big game, in which he went 11-13 from the field, the rest of the Nuggets starters went a whopping 19-of-55 from the field in the game which equates to just 34.5 percent shooting.

Jamal Murray knocked down four shots from beyond the arc but was only 6-of-15 from the field. Juancho Hernangomez did all of the small things that he is supposed to, but was 3-of-11 from the field including going 2-of-7 from the three-point line. Nikola Jokic was close to a triple-double, but also struggled from the field going 3-of-13 from the field including 1-of-5 from deep. Gary Harris came through for Denver late, but he went 1-of-8 from beyond the arc and did not hit his first three-pointer until deep into the third quarter.

Denver has to generate more scoring as well as keep it up on the defensive end if they want to be a team that not only makes the playoffs, but wants to compete when they get there. Championship-caliber teams understand how to get it done on both ends of the floor. Denver is now 11-7 on the year after a fast start, but they have had issues with scoring, especially amongst starters. Hopefully an offensive explosion is coming coupled with solid defense as well. Once they are able to put together complete games, who is to say what their limit is.

The Ugly – Tough Stretch Coming

Denver snapped their two-game skid with a much-needed win Wednesday night and are 11-7 on the season. They are currently in sixth place in the Western conference standings, but, as always, it is a slugfest each night out West. They are 2-6 in their last eight games and, while Denver is typically one of the league’s best teams at home, they have not been as good as of late. The Nuggets need to get back to their usual self and that starts with a home game on Friday against the Orlando Magic. From there Denver has a pretty tough stretch of games and most of those are on the road.

With six of their next eight games on the road,it becomes that much more imperative for Denver to win the games that they are supposed to win while catching a team or two by surprise. A stretch of the Thunder, Lakers (at home), Portland and Toronto is a daunting task for any team to go through, but with Orlando again, Charlotte and Atlanta after, it is about staying healthy, playing well on the road and taking care of the teams that they are supposed to beat.

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