Denver Nuggets 139, Memphis Grizzlies 137: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

Sometimes one changed call can change the momentum of a ball game. Fortunately for the Nuggets, that call went in their favor and gave them a new life as they would seal a dramatic 139-137 double-overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies at Ball Arena.

Denver was down 114-109 when Ja Morant dribbled out of bounds with 1:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. The officials would call the play against Facundo Campazzo before a video review would overturn the call. The home would proceed to go on a 7-2 run to force overtime. After two hard-fought overtime quarters, it would be the Nuggets who would walk away with the victory – thanks to the efforts of Nikola Jokić and Will Barton III.

Jokić had an incredible 47-point showing, adding 15 boards and eight assists while shooting an unconscious 64.5 percent. Barton III played a significant part in the win, scoring 28 points and dropping seven assists and six boards.

Ja Morant was sensational on the other end for the Grizzlies, leading his team with 36 points, 12 assists, and eight boards.

"I thought tonight was a character win and I couldn't be more proud of our group," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "No Jamal Murray, no Monte Morris, down nine, a lot of teams are just going to let go of that rope, but that's not in our DNA and that's why I love our team." 

The Nuggets have now extended their win streak to three games and will be looking for a fourth consecutive victory when they visit the Trail Blazers Wednesday (8 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).

Here are the takeaways:

The Takeover, Joker Edition:

Jokić has played at an MVP level all season, but he has taken his game to an even higher level since Jamal Murray has gone down with an ACL injury.

Like most of the greats, the all-world center did most of his damage down the stretch for the Nuggets. Jokić scored 31 of his 47 points in the second half and the overtimes. With Morant stepping it up in the extra quarters, with 14 in the two overtimes, Jokić had a strong reply for the Grizzlies star. The 26-year-old was perfect in the final OT, shooting 4 of 4 to score nine points.

"I think his confidence in clutch situations has been born from doing. He's put this team on his back the last three [to] four years and that's why we've always been a really good closing team," Malone said. "You took away one side of that with Jamal Murray, which I thought we had the best two-man closing group in the league, but Nikola is phenomenal, and I think that confidence comes from many years of being put in that situation, me trusting in him to make the right play and he's grown with that and the confidence is there." 

In the two games before Monday’s contest, Jokić has been shooting 61.5 percent and averaging 23.0 points, 13 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and a block per game since Murray’s injury.

“It was good, it's always nice to win a game, no matter what, especially after two overtimes," Jokić said. "They were up, we were down, we came back a couple of times, so it was just a character win for us." 

Thrill I Am

Although Jokić was brilliant again, the Nuggets don’t pull out this game without the efforts of Will Barton III.

With Michael Porter Jr. having a 1 of 6 shooting first half, it was Barton III who played the role of second scorer for Denver. The veteran got hot early, scoring the home team’s first 13 points in the opening five minutes. Barton III would finish the first half with 18 points and his efforts on both ends carried into the final 29 minutes of the contest.

“I just have to be aggressive with my play. I feel like I've been playing well these last couple of games. I just haven't been as aggressive, and I wanted to come out tonight and be aggressive," Barton III explained. "I feel like when I'm playing that way, I'm one of the best players on the floor, night in and night out.” 

It was Barton III’s three with 12 seconds that forced a second overtime and the guard had 13 in the second half and overtimes. As good as he was offensively, Barton III also made several key defensive plays. His block on Morant was critical for Malone’s team.

Bench makes impact

The Nuggets’ reserves might have been outscored by seven by their counterparts, but they more than held their own against one of the better benches in the league.

Memphis has the fourth-highest scoring bench in the league, averaging 39.8 points a game. On Monday, the Grizzlies bench had 45 to Denver’s 38. Despite that edge, an argument could be made the Nuggets’ group had a bigger impact on the other end.

JaMychal Green and Paul Millsap scored 12 apiece to lead the group in scoring while P.J. Dozier and Shaq Harrison made several key defensive plays throughout the matchup. With Monte Morris out with a hamstring injury, Dozier stepped up as the backup facilitator with Campazzo elevated to the starters. The guard did a solid job of setting up others as he had five dimes on the night.

Overall, a strong outing that showcased the Nuggets’ depth.

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