The Denver Nuggets hosted the Memphis Grizzlies at Pepsi Center looking to get back on track after getting annihilated by the Houston Rockets by a score of 125-95 two days prior. While Denver did not make things easy on themselves, they were able to secure a win over Memphis by a score of _-_.
In an interesting turn of events, Nuggets’ head coach Michael Malone decided to start Kenneth Faried — who did not play one single minute against the Rockets — at power forward instead of sliding Wilson Chandler into that role and taking Will Barton out of the bench rotation to start at small forward as Michael Malone did in Houston.
That decision paid out immediate dividends for Malone as the Nuggets’ spacing was significantly better. That change is what led to eight of Denver’s first 12 points coming within the painted area. Pair that with a high-level of defensive energy and the Nuggets were able to jump out to a first-quarter lead of 27-18.
The Nuggets were playing with fire against the Grizzlies in the second quarter but avoided getting burnt thanks to an awful offensive performance from the Grizzlies paired with the Nuggets tenacious style of defense. Denver was turning the ball over far too often and was shooting a terrible percentage from the free-throw line throughout the entire first half.
Thankfully, Memphis’ offense was more dysfunctional than any of the Nuggets’ issues. The Grizzlies could not convert from anywhere on the floor in the first half and finished out the first two quarters with a shooting percentage of 44.4 percent while also committing 11 fouls and turning the ball over 10 times. The Nuggets finished the second quarter with a flurry of threes and dunks and eventually took a lead of 61-45 into halftime even without playing anywhere near their well as they could have.
The start of the third quarter was mostly uneventful until the Grizzlies began to get their offense into gear and began hitting shots. Memphis went on a 22-13 run to start the second half thanks to their shots finally falling from beyond the three-point arc and by raising their defensive intensity.
Denver’s lead fell all the way to just two points by the end of the third quarter as the Grizzlies scored 29 points into the frame and held Denver to just 15 points. The abundance of energy that Denver was playing within the first half had dissipated and the Nuggets found themselves in a dogfight heading into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter is where Nikola Jokic shined the brightest. The game seemed like it was getting away from the Nuggets, but every time that the momentum began swinging in the Grizzlies favor, it was Jokic who stepped up to calm things down. He was scoring at will, setting up teammates, playing terrific defense, and gobbling up rebounds. The fourth quarter was Jokic’s quarter; plain and simple.
Malone had said that he wanted Jokic to grow as a leader and his performance against the Grizzlies on Friday night in the Pepsi Center was another step in that direction. Jokic finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, and one assist in the fourth quarter and led Denver to a massive win over the Grizzlies.
Denver improved to 11-8 on the year thanks to 28 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists from Jokic and will have four days off until they play the Utah Jazz at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night.