Denver Nuggets 120, Memphis Grizzlies 96: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets stormed past the Grizzlies 120-96 to continue their run as the hottest team in the NBA over the past few months.

Denver has the best record in the NBA over its last 15 games, winning 13 in that stretch. All of this is coming without several key players, including Jamal Murray, Monte Morris, and Will Barton III.

Michael Porter Jr. continued his recent surge with another strong outing, posting 31 points and seven rebounds on 12-of-19 shooting. Ja Morant was once again hard for the Nuggets to contain, scoring 27 points on 10 of 15 shooting and adding six boards and six dimes.

The Nuggets swept their season series against the Grizzlies, going 3-0 against their Southwest Division opponents. Denver is now 2-for-2 on its current four-game homestand and will look to keep the good times rolling at Ball Arena when it hosts Zion Williamson and Pelicans Wednesday (ALTITUDE, 7 p.m. MT).

"The last time we played against them, we fell into two overtimes. Today, they didn't shoot the ball well. Maybe our defense is a part of that, maybe it's their sixth game in nine nights or something like that," Nikola Jokić said after the win. "But, I think we played really good; the ball was moving, everybody was selfless. So it was a good win for us, I mean, every win is a good win for us.” 

Here are the takeaways:

On fire

The Nuggets are 6-1 since Jamal Murray went down and Porter Jr.’s rise is a significant reason behind it.

The second-year forward is averaging 25.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, and connecting on 4.4 threes a game. He’s shooting an incredible 59.1 percent overall and an eye-popping 54.4 percent from downtown. According to Statsmuse, he’s also in the midst of a historic season. He is the first sophomore to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three while averaging at least 15 and five.

More impressively, he is starting to add more to his arsenal as the season progresses. He isn’t pressing as he did earlier in the campaign and is taking a step forward with his ball-handling. The latter development is critical when considering the Nuggets are down their three top dribblers in Murray, Morris, and Barton III.

"I love when Michael is aggressive and he's not just settling for jump shots. We know how pretty that jumpshot is, how effective that jumpshot is, but when he can go to the basket, he has terrific size and length and he works all of the time on his body," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. 

"So, to use that strength, to get a bigs off of him, is really fun to watch. 

Joker takes advantage of the charity stripe

Jokić always finds a way to make an impact.

With the Grizzlies seeing the return of Jonas Valanciunas and Jaren Jackson Jr., Nikola Jokić had to face more size than he did in the previous matchup against the Grizzlies. As NBA defenses have learned all season, the MVP candidate found a quick to adjust: Hit the free-throw line.

Jokić went to the line 10 times and hit all attempts. That’s a sizeable jump from his season average of five. When he wasn’t getting to the line, he also took advantage of the looks he was getting from downtown. The 26-year-old hit two threes en route to a 24-point, 15-rebound night.

Three-point defense dominant

Speaking of three-pointers, the Nuggets really clamped down in containing that area. Memphis only hit four of 32 attempts from downtown.

The Grizzlies are an average three-point shooting team, hitting 36.3 percent of their attempts on the season (17th). Facundo Campazzo, PJ Dozier, Shaq Harrison all had a strong night defensively in containing the perimeter.

Memphis shot 3 of 16 in the opening 24 minutes before Denver really stepped in the second half. The visitors shot just 1 of 16 in the final 24 minutes.

"I really thought the key stretch was the end of the third quarter, start of the fourth quarter," Malone said. "We went on a 24-4 run with our whole bench in the game. I thought those guys played terrific on both ends. To close a quarter like that and start the fourth quarter like that, that was tremendous." 

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