Nuggets get rematch of controversial loss to Grizzlies
DENVER — The Denver Nuggets may have played late Tuesday night, but there is no question they will be energized for a Wednesday matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Pepsi Center.
After how things played out in the first meeting between the teams, it would surprising if Denver isn’t ready to play. The Grizzlies won a thriller on Nov. 8 when center Marc Gasol hit a buzzer-beater to down the Nuggets, 108-107.
The problem was Memphis should have never had the ball for Gasol to be the hero.
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With time running out that night, officials on the court ruled that a ball went off Denver guard Emmanuel Mudiay with 0.7 seconds left. However, replays showed Mudiay never touched the ball, and the NBA later ruled that the Nuggets should have been given the ball.
The Nuggets thought the last 0.7 seconds should have been replayed, but the league office let the score stand.
Wednesday will be Denver’s first chance to get the win it might have had early in the season.
A lot has transpired since that November night. The Nuggets (21-26) have transformed into one of the better offensive teams, and the Grizzlies (29-21) have found their defense.
In Memphis’ 115-96 win at Phoenix on Monday, the Grizzlies held the Suns to 10 points fewer than their season average.
“We’ve taken a little more pride defensively,” Memphis guard Mike Conley, who scored 38 points against the Suns, told The Commercial Appeal. “Earlier in the year, we were getting beat one-on-one too much and having to rely on Marc and our big guys to help too much. Our guards are doing a better job getting over screens and making it tough on the offensive side for them.”
That defense will be needed again Wednesday night. The Nuggets are one of the hottest offensive teams over the past six weeks and are now third in the league in scoring at 110 points a game.
Memphis’ backcourt held Phoenix’s starting guards to 9-of-31 shooting on Monday. It was a big reason why the Grizzlies won consecutive games for the first time in three weeks.
“The last two games we’ve done a better job,” Gasol told The Commercial Appeal. “Even in Portland (last Friday) — the second half we were good. We’ve put together 10 quarters of good defense.”
The Grizzlies will have their work cut out for them in Denver on Wednesday night. The high-scoring Nuggets haven’t missed a beat despite not having their best player, Nikola Jokic, the past two games due to a hip injury and Mudiay for the past four because of lower back pain. In the Nuggets’ 120-116 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Denver was even more compromised with the absence of guard Will Barton, who sat out due to an ankle injury.
The three are considered day-to-day, and their status for Wednesday was unknown as the Nuggets go for their sixth straight win at home.
Despite being short-handed, the Nuggets were able to score 116 points against the Lakers. A big reason is the play of their veterans, in particular Jameer Nelson and Darrell Arthur. Nelson has stepped into the starting point guard spot and delivered four solid games, and Arthur has provided offense and defense off the bench.
“He’s a professional that works extremely hard,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone told the Denver Post of Arthur. “People never see the time these players put in — before practice, after practice, whatever it may be. Darrell is a great example of that.”
Nelson, 34, is providing some veteran leadership with Denver’s young guard rotation. His role has increased with Mudiay’s injury, and he is making the most of his opportunity.
“You cherish these moments, and you make the best out of them,” Nelson told the Denver Post. “And for me, I’m just going to be who I am. I’m going to go out there, try to play my hardest and try to help the team in different ways. I don’t know if every night I’m going to score 17 points, but I can lead. I’m going to be a leader every day.”