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Memphis Deals Nuggets a Blow to Start Off Long Road Trip
MEMPHIS – The Grizzlies couldn’t lose every game forever. Right?
Still, the Nuggets hoped to extend Memphis’ misery just one more night. But they couldn’t. The Grizzlies snapped a 19-game losing streak by handing the Nuggets a stinging 101-94 loss on Saturday night at FedExForum. It was a night of fits and starts, and though the Nuggets rallied from a big early deficit, they could not get over the hump.
“Give them credit, they outworked us,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We were not ready to play tonight.”
The loss dropped the Nuggets to 10th in the Western Conference, 1½ games behind New Orleans for the eighth spot. Both San Antonio and Utah won and moved up in the West’s playoff race. The Nuggets are a percentage point behind the Clippers, who are in ninth.
The Nuggets couldn’t get things going at the start. They fell behind quickly due to cold shooting from themselves and hot shooting from Memphis. It started with Memphis’ ability to hit 3-point shots, and spread to the Grizzlies getting to the rim as well. Before the Nuggets could get a foothold into things, they’d fallen behind by 21 points.
But they eventually did get that foothold.
The majority of the second quarter saw the Nuggets chip away at Memphis’ lead, getting it all the way down to five by halftime. They’d outscored the Grizzlies 31-19 and seemed to be dialed-in.
“We stopped settling for jump shots,” guard Devin Harris said. “Got into the bonus early, kind of took advantage of that. And defensively we picked up our intensity.”
But the third quarter presented another round of struggles. Memphis started by hitting its first three 3-pointers and the Nuggets were in catch-up mode again. So, they got to business cutting into the lead. On a couple of occasions in the fourth quarter the Nuggets tied the game, but they could never get the lead. The Nuggets did not score in the final 2:47 of the game, and the Grizzlies closed the game on a 13-6 run.
“The guys battled back,” Malone said. “But even in that fourth quarter, they scored 17 points; six come off of our turnovers, six come off of offensive rebounds. They beat us on the glass all night long. Just a very disappointing effort.”
Nikola Jokić led the Nuggets with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but the team missed its leading scorer, Gary Harris, who was out due to a right knee strain/sprain. As a team, the Nuggets shot just 36.8 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from the 3-point line.
This was the first of a season-long seven-game road trip.
“It’s a tough one to swallow, for sure,” Harris said. “But we’ve got to get over it quick, and we’ve got to come back (on Sunday), correct our mistakes. It’s not an Xs and Os thing. It was more energy and effort, and that’s something we can correct.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter