Denver Nuggets 97, Oklahoma City Thunder 95: Three takeaways
Sometimes you just need a lucky break to turn things around. Good fortune certainly played a role in the Nuggets' 97-95 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With the third quarter coming to a close, Jamal Murray launched a long-range shot from halfcourt that had little chance of going in. Hamidou Diallo, seemingly thinking the buzzer had sounded, innocuously slapped the ball away as it headed toward the rim. Fortunately for Murray, the ball was still in play and counted as a three due to goaltending. It was a moment that will surely land on a few blooper reels, but it was significant for the Nuggets as they saw a 12-point deficit cut to nine entering the fourth quarter. It was the spark Michael Malone and his team desperately needed as they went into the final 12 minutes of the game.
"I think that was a big play, Jamal Murray throws the ball up [at the] end of the quarter and we wind up getting three points. That carried our momentum into that fourth quarter," Malone said after the game. "Sometimes you need the breaks to go your way and that was definitely one that went in our favor."
Denver would go on a 9-3 run to open the fourth quarter and turn around a contest it had trailed by as many as 19 in.
Nikola Jokić finished tied for a game-high 22 with Murray. It was another almost triple-double night for the center, who also added 13 boards and nine assists with just two turnovers. Justin Jackson came off the bench to lead the Thunder in scoring with 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting.
"We got great looks, it wasn't bad shots. We generated everything on offense. Even with bad shooting, we still found a way to win," Murray said.
The Nuggets now take a two-game win streak into their marquee matchup with the Lakers on Valentine’s Day (8 p.m. MT, ESPN).
“I think there’s no such thing as an ugly win," Malone said. "It is a division win; I believe we’re 5-1 in our division now. You have to win ugly games."
"This Thunder team did the same thing to the Lakers in back-to-back games. Took the Lakers to overtime two games in a row. They play hard, they’re aggressive, they’re into you, they rebound, they move without it. We just had to stay the course. We were able to get the win because we are able to stay together, stay positive, and have some really good late execution."
Here are the takeaways:
Jamal Murray's anger translates into success
There was a moment in the third quarter where Murray looked at his teammates and proceeded to yell and gesture with his hands. Although Kenrich Williams would score a three in that possession, the sequence appeared to fire up Denver on the court.
Murray would assist Michael Porter Jr. on a three seconds later, which sparked a 13-4 run to bring the Nuggets within eight. Murray would finish the third quarter with nine points and three rebounds on 3 of 6 shooting. It was a much-needed bounce back for the 23-year-old, who had seven points on 3 of 9 shooting in the opening 24 minutes.
"What I loved about Jamal was, even though his jumper has not been going, when that’s going on you can’t allow that to affect the rest of your game. If you do that, then you’re a specialist; then you’re solely a shooter. We all know Jamal Murray is much more than that," Malone said.
Murray would finish the game with 22 points, five rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
"Jamal was a warrior; he’s got a lot of different bumps and bruises right now, but we don’t win the game without him," Malone said.
MPJ comes alive in second half
Similar to Murray, Michael Porter Jr. also got off to a slow start as he had just two points on 1 of 4. The second-year forward was clearly ignited by Murray’s rally cry in the third quarter.
Porter Jr. would explode in the third, going for 11 points in the quarter on 5 of 7 shooting. Despite several switches in matchup by the Thunder, the visitors had no answer for the Nuggets small forward. Porter Jr. also made a crucial play late in the quarter, swatting Diallo when it appeared the guard had a wide-open lane to the rim.
"I thought [Michael and Jamal] were being aggressive on both ends and hustling," Will Barton III said. "Both were talking and very vocal and they didn't want to lose. They picked their games up and raise their games."
Porter would finish the night with 15 points and four rebounds.
Another MVP outing
Despite being double-teamed throughout the contest, Nikola Jokić still managed to be dominant in all areas of the game. It speaks to just how incredible the Serbian has been throughout the season.
With the Nuggets struggling to find any offense in the first half, Jokić took over offensively and dropped 16 points on an incredibly efficient 70 percent shooting. He also had seven boards and five assists in the opening 24 minutes.
In the second half, his focus shifted towards getting others involved, adding four assists and setting several key screens to provide openings for Murray and Porter Jr.
"The switch [for the team] was just wanting to win the game. We didn’t want to lose probably; we are at home," Jokić said.