Nuggets Hold Off Grizzlies, Collect 10th Road Win
MEMPHIS – The shots get bigger – and Gary Harris seemingly gets less impressed.
Hoodie on in the locker room post-game, Harris described the shot that sealed an important 108-104 win over Memphis on Friday night.
“I just wanted to get a shot at the rim,” Harris said. “And it went down.”
Just as simple as that?
“It’s a simple game,” he said. “You either miss it or make it.”
Lately, Harris is making a habit out of nailing these types of shots. The shots that go in during critical moments in games. The kinds of shots that directly lead to wins. The Nuggets needed this one, which stopped a two-game losing streak and kept them in the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
The setup: It was 104-102 with 1:19 to play. The Grizzlies had erased a 16-point lead and had it down to two. They had momentum. The crowd was sparse, but as loud as it had been all night long.
The Nuggets had a baseline out of bounds play to execute.
After it was inbounded, the ball eventually got out to Harris on the wing. He got a screen from Nikola Jokic, but Memphis guard Dillon Brooks fought through it. Meanwhile, Grizzlies forward Jarrell Martin cheated over from the weak side to help deter Harris from driving all the way into the lane. Brooks recovered to get back in front of Harris, and…
A behind-the-back crossover dribble.
Then, an inside-out dribble with the left hand.
Brooks’ knees buckled. His feet, frozen.
Harris stepped back, raised up and knocked down a 17-foot jump shot. Game over. There were 58.2 seconds left, but Harris – again – dealt a knockout blow in the closing moments of a game. The Nuggets were up four. Memphis never scored again. The Nuggets escaped with the victory and Harris’ shot was the final brick wall that the Grizzlies could not break.
“It reminded me of the shot he hit against San Antonio, to be honest with you, where he had LaMarcus (Aldridge) on him and hit the step back,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
“Gary’s been making big shots all year,” guard Will Barton said. “It’s just what he does. We’re accustomed to seeing him do that. It was a big shot and we needed it.”
The Nuggets wanted to make Friday’s game about themselves. They needed a win, and the Grizzlies’ season-long struggles were not to be a reason to let their guard down. And the Nuggets – mostly – didn’t.
There were some anxious moments at the end, but the Nuggets put one in the win column. They took care of business despite allowing 31 points off of turnovers.
“This was not the prettiest win in the world, but as I told our guys, there’s no style points,” Malone said. “We get paid to win games, and however ugly it was with the turnovers and offensive rebounds, we still found a way to win.”
The game featured Paul Millsap’s return to the starting lineup. It was his first start since Nov. 19, the day he suffered the wrist injury that kept him out for three months. And Millsap responded with a solid game of 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals. He played 27 minutes in the game and said he felt good out on the court.
“Second game, found a little bit of a rhythm,” Millsap said.
Harris led the Nuggets with 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He also had four steals. Will Barton returned to his super sub role off the bench and poured in 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting. He added six rebounds. The Nuggets finish this road back-to-back set in Cleveland on Saturday night.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we got the win and that’s all that matters,” Harris said. “Especially bouncing back after losing two-in-a-row. Now, we’ve got a chance to go get two-in-a-row in Cleveland.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.