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Watson Shines as Nuggets Beat Cleveland

LAS VEGAS — As Nuggets Summer league coach Ryan Bowen put it, Peyton Watson was no worse for the wear after a first game in which he wished he played better. 

Watson never lost bounce in his step. He simply insisted to Bowen that he’d elevate his performance in the next game. 

Sunday, Watson did that and then some. 

Watson played with plenty of bounce and with mounds of energy. He was the driving force behind the Nuggets’ 84-76 win over Cleveland at Cox Pavilion, scoring 19 points with seven rebounds.

“I came in wanting to win,” Watson said. “Definitely wanted to get my game going with rebounding and being in the mix, and my defense.” 

Check, check, check. 

Watson was active early. He crashed the offensive glass. He finished around the rim with ferocity on a few big dunks. He dove on the floor to secure 50-50 basketballs. On defense, he stayed in front of ball handlers and snagged two steals. Watson also had a blocked shot. 

“He was terrific,” Bowen said. “I ran the first play (of the game) for him, and he made a nice play for a dunk and that kind of got things going. He’s a competitor. He wants to go out and play…it was just a lot of fun.”

For a while in the third quarter it looked as if the Nuggets would run away with the victory. They built a 12-point lead before Cleveland clawed its way back. But the Nuggets never relinquished the advantage, leading the entire second half and pulling away in the final minutes. 

Defensively, they held Cleveland to 42 percent shooting and just 27 percent from the 3-point line. They outrebounded the Cavaliers 55-41, and that was due in large part to forward Jack White, who had a monster game on the boards, grabbing a game-high 15. 

Scoring-wise, Collin Gillespie added 17 points, and the Nuggets got 10 points apiece from Christian Braun and Ismael Kamagate.  

The Nuggets now get two days off before returning to action on Wednesday against the L.A. Clippers.

THREE TAKEAWAYS

KAMAGATE IMPRESSES. Rookie center Ismael Kamagate has proven to be a quick study. He’s only practiced twice, but is improving by leaps and bounds each game. Sunday, he made 5-of-6 shots to finish with 10 points and nine rebounds. He attacked the offensive glass, grabbing five offensive boards. Defensively, he made his presence felt with two blocks. But it is his ability to continue to play well despite minimal practice time that has been most impressive. 

GILLESPIE’S AGGRESSIVENESS. After the first game, Collin Gillespie said he wanted to be a more aggressive scorer. On Sunday, he was exactly that. Gillespie took 17 shots, 10 of them from the 3-point line (making four), and finished with 17 points. He hit a couple of threes late in the fourth quarter to help put the game away. And he filled the stat sheet with seven rebounds and six assists as well. 

“He’s a gamer,” Nuggets summer league coach Ryan Bowen said. “It’s great to have a point guard like that, that’s so experienced and can kind of manipulate the game the way he wants to.”

MPJ GIVES GOOD NEWS. Michael Porter Jr. has been a fixture at the first two summer league games in support of his brother, Jontay — and it looks like he’s ready to be a fixture back in the Nuggets’ lineup next season. Asked how he was feeling, he beamed. 

“I’m doing really well,” he said. “I’m feeling good. I just continue to give all the glory to God. I’m feeling great. I’m able to workout as much as I want. No pain or anything. I’m in a really good spot. I’m excited to get back with the team…just feeling good and I’m happy.”