The good, the bad and the ugly: Nuggets win big, end four-game skid

Nov 15, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Monte Morris (11) reacts after scoring in the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Monte Morris (11) reacts after scoring in the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets’ first 10 games of the season were like something out of a fairy tale.

They were sitting at 9-1 to start, garnering national attention as a team that could surprise out West and showed massive improvement, specifically on the defensive end. Fast forward to Thursday night’s game and Denver was in the midst of a nightmare stretch; including three straight losses at home and four straight on the season. They even lost to the Brooklyn Nets.

Denver desperately needed a win ended their losing streak, and they accomplished the feat by a score of 138-93 against the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday. Let’s look at the good, bad and the ugly.

The Good: Malone’s switch ignites Denver early

Prior to Thursday night’s game against Atlanta, the Nuggets had started contests out slow, without energy and it forced Denver to have to rally in the second half. It was refreshing to see Denver start out the game with a 13-0 lead and maintained that lead heading into the second quarter.

At the half, Denver had pushed that lead to 16 points and never looked back.

Was it a decision that Malone made to help Denver finally start out the right way? Or was it just the mere fact that the game was against the lottery-bound Hawks?

Malone has been outspoken with his concerns about how the team has started games slowly and how he has made moves to the starting lineup to show that a fix was needed. Malone has altered the starting line up a few times early in the season due to Will Barton going down with an injury. He initially went with Torrey Craig as the starter, but with a few slow starts, he elected to go with Juancho Hernangomez who is still in the starting lineup and posted a game high +46 on Thursday.

The move that caught many by surprise, though, was Malone deciding to bench Jamal Murray. He started 80 games last season and every game this year, but instead, backup point guard Monte Morris got the nod. Malone said that Murray did not small because of a “small violation of team rules” but did say that Jamal would be back in the starting lineup against the Pelicans.

The Bad: Malone sends message

As good as it was that Malone made the decision to bench Murray for Morris, it also brings up the question of whether or not a third-year point guard will respond the right way.

In the past four games, Murray was averaging 15.0 points and 4.8 assists a game. While these numbers are decent, what was holding him back was his 3-point shooting. Murray was shooting a ghastly 14.3 percent from beyond the arc and he was also a -5 plus-minus in that span. Murray looked as if he was losing confidence in his shot and was turning the ball over at an alarming rate.

Malone decided to punish Murray as a result of him violating the rules and he came out and made plays like this.

Murray responded from the benching with 14 points and five assists. He also only recorded one turnover on the night but hitting 3s was the biggest key.

He finished 3-6 from beyond the arc and will be looking to stay in that groove. After the game he spoke about how Denver can stay in their groove collectively.

“Just be consistent with everything we do,” Murray said. “The way that we move the ball is like no other team, we just have to limit turnovers and keep trusting each other.”

The Ugly: What ugly? Denver won by 45 points

How could there be an “ugly” after a 45-point win in the Pepsi Center in a game that the starters were able to sit in the fourth quarter? There was even a DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell sighting and Tyler Lydon knocked down two straight three-pointers. So, something that I am personally bummed about was this play here.

For as good of a guy that Mason Plumlee is, I did not expect him to be the type to go after his brother. Late in the fourth quarter Mason grabbed this rebound over Miles and dunked it over his older brother.

There is no ugly from Thursday night’s game as I agree with Malone that this was the first time in quite a while that Denver looked like themselves. I know one thing; Thanksgiving dinner will be interesting in the Plumlee household.

Denver is back on the road Saturday and will take on Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, let’s hope this strong play carries over.

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