DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 26: Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets shoots the ball against the Utah Jazz on December 26, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Nuggets 19-15 Record Marks Best Start in Seven Years

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

So where were you, Jamal Murray, when the Nuggets last got out to at least as good a record as they have this season? Hint: It was seven years ago.

“I was 15 years old,” Murray said.

Welllll.

He was actually 13.

But who’s counting?

“Let’s keep setting milestones,” Murray said.

This Nuggets team is starting to collect them on a regular basis. And the ultimate outcomes are almost all favorable. Their 19-15 record this season is the Nuggets best start through 34 games since going 20-14 through the first 34 games of the 2010-11 season. The Nuggets were 20-14 on Jan. 5, 2011. Murray’s birthday is in February. So, he was creeping up on the ripe old age of 14.

So, what does it mean? Time will tell, but that 2010-11 team ended up winning 50 games, finishing fifth in the Western Conference and meeting fourth-seeded Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs.

Lyles on Fire: Trey Lyles is enjoying the best stretch of play in his young career. He scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the Nuggets’ win over his former team, the Utah Jazz and afterward admitted that “yeah” beating the Jazz meant a little more to him.

“You’ve got friends on the other team that you’re going against,” Lyles said. “They beat us twice already.”

It was part of a nine-game span that has seen Lyles average 16.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and shooting sizzling percentages of 58.5 percent from the field and 52.5 percent from the 3-point line. He’s scored in double figures in eight of those nine games.

“I’ve just become really, really comfortable in the system and comfortable playing with the guys. And confident,” Lyles said. “I’m just going out there and taking what the defense gives me.”

Giving Wes the credit: There are many factors impacting the Nuggets sudden improvement on defense, but Nuggets coach Michael Malone wanted to spotlight assistant Wes Unseld on Tuesday night.

“I think Mason Plumlee, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler in the lineup is really helping us out,” Malone said. “And I want to give a shout out to (assistant coach) Wes Unseld. Wes does a phenomenal job on our defense. He is a tireless worker, and he deserves a lot of the credit with our defense right now. I give him a lot of leeway to take control of the defense and he does a phenomenal job.”

Jokić update: Nuggets center Nikola Jokić was handed a Flagrant 2 foul with 9:43 in the fourth quarter after making contact with Utah big man Jonas Jerebko. Jokić made a swim move gesture in explaining what happened. He said he was merely trying to get away from Jerebko and made incidental contact.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone agreed, but acquiesced to the officials.

“(Referee) Marc Davis said as Nikola was coming down he said that Nikola initiated contact with Jerebko, and his elbow caught him in the head,” Malone said. “And that was what they deemed a Flagrant 2, ejection… Obviously the referees looked at it, they saw it and you have to respect their decision.”

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