Denver Nuggets 97, Memphis Grizzlies 106: Three Takeaways

Social & Digital Content Manager

Sometimes it’s just one of those nights.

The Denver Nuggets opened the week with a 106-97 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in a game in which the Mile High Squad shot just 23.7 percent from beyond the arc and were out-rebounded by double digits.

A hot-shooting start for Jaren Jackson Jr. (three 3-pointers in the first six minutes) helped propel Memphis to an early 19-12 lead. However, seven points and three assists for Nikola Jokić in the quarter helped Denver stay in the game. The Grizzlies were active early and often in the paint, dropping 20 such points in the opening 12 minutes, which helped build a 31-26 lead after one.

Memphis extended the lead during the beginning of the second quarter as 3-point shooting continued to be the difference between the two teams. As Jeff Green led the second unit, the Nuggets briefly cut the deficit down to just three points midway through the quarter. Once the starters checked back in, Jokić and Aaron Gordon went to work to eventually give Denver a one-point lead, highlighted by several big dunks from Gordon. However, Memphis ultimately took a 60-58 lead into the halftime break.

The two teams traded buckets to begin the third quarter, with Denver ultimately taking a 70-69 lead midway through the frame. As was the case throughout the first half, the Nuggets didn’t enjoy the lead for very long, as Memphis used a 12-3 run to regain control of the game late in the quarter. As a result, Denver found itself down 82-73 after three quarters of action.

It didn’t take long for the Grizzlies to push the lead to double-digits in the fourth quarter, which prompted a quick timeout from Nuggets head coach Michael Malone. Struggles on the offensive end continued throughout the quarter as Memphis held on to a double-digit lead. Bones Hyland provided a brief spark with a nice assist and 3-pointer, but the Nuggets weren’t able to get enough stops down the stretch.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s loss.

The Jokić/Gordon connection

As others struggled to find a rhythm Monday night, Jokić and Gordon continued their hot starts to the season and led the way for the Nuggets.

Gordon did his best impression of the reigning MVP with an impressive one-handed finish off a pass from Jokić, all while never catching the ball. The 25-year-old followed that with two highlight-worthy dunks towards the end of the first half. Unfortunately, a right eye injury suffered early in the third quarter limited Gordon’s playing time the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, Jokić had it going early in Memphis, using a mix of scoring in-and-beyond the arc on his way to a 23-point night. Of course, the Serbian big man doesn’t just score, as he also chipped in seven assists, seven rebounds, and four blocks.

Cold shooting hurts Denver again

Heading into Monday’s contest, the Nuggets ranked 25th in the league in 3-point percentage, having only connected on 31.3 percent of their attempts. Well, Monday’s shooting display won’t improve that number, as Denver finished 9-of-38 from downtown.

Although Denver’s offense isn’t built around 3-point attempts, it’s hard to keep up with an explosive Grizzlies offense when shots aren’t falling from deep. Memphis finished with four more 3-pointers than the Nuggets in the first meeting between the two teams this week, in addition to advantages inside the paint and on the boards (more on that below).

Struggles on the glass sink the Nuggets

When 3-point shots aren’t falling on one end and your opponent finishes with a double-digit advantage on the glass, it’s hard to win games in the NBA, especially on the road.

That was the exact situation Denver found itself in on Monday, as Memphis controlled the boards on both ends of the floor throughout the game. A 55-40 advantage on the boards (including an 11-6 edge in offensive rebounds) helped the Grizzlies control Monday’s contest. As a result, it’s no surprise that Memphis also outscored the Nuggets 58-40 in the paint.

Denver and Memphis will face off again on Wednesday (6 p.m. MT).