Nuggets return home to face Grizzlies
The Denver Nuggets are coming home with a little adversity to deal with, but it could have been worse. Denver is going to be without forward Paul Millsap for a few weeks, guard Gary Harris‘ recovery from a hip injury is going slower than hoped but Jamal Murray avoided serious injury in Saturday’s loss at lowly Atlanta.
Murray left the 106-98 loss after he was inadvertently kicked in the shin but was able to return. Had the injury been more severe, it would have meant the Nuggets would be down four of their starters from opening night.
“I got kicked I think in an awkward spot,” Murray told reporters after the game.
Denver (17-9) took a blow in losing to one of the worst teams in the NBA and finished its five-game road trip dropping two straight. The Nuggets will face the Memphis Grizzlies, who are coming off a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and are dealing with injuries of their own.
Point guard Mike Conley suffered a dislocated right pointer finger in a win over New Orleans on Friday and played with it against the Lakers the next night. He acknowledged after Saturday’s game it bothered him.
“There’s pain still, but it’s uncomfortable and it’s hard to hold the ball,” Conley told the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Saturday night. “I like to go right a lot, and it’s hard to hold the ball with my right hand.
“To dislocate it and play the next night is not ideal. But I think it’ll get a lot better within two days, just letting the swelling get down.”
The day off between games might help Memphis (15-1), which suffered its biggest blowout loss in falling to the Lakers, 111-88.
The Grizzlies are still in first place in the Southwest Division and boast one of the better rookies in the league. Forward Jaren Jackson Jr., the son of former NBA player Jaren Jackson, is averaging 13.3 points and 1.9 blocks a game.
Jackson, who is averaging 16 points over the last five games, scored 20 points in the first matchup against Denver and could present problems for the banged-up Nuggets. Millsap suffered a broken right big toe in the loss at Charlotte on Friday, thinning the bench even more.
Trey Lyles, who has played well as a reserve, struggled getting the start against the Hawks. He was 2-for-13 shooting and his contribution off the bench was missed. Coach Michael Malone played just eight guys on the second night of back-to-back games, and the fatigue — as well as playing the last of a five-game road trip — might have impacted the overall play.
“This was one of our worst performances of the year,” Malone said after the game. “We had a lot of guys who had really bad nights. It was by far our worst passing game since I’ve been here. We couldn’t pass the ball from A to B. We couldn’t get the ball inside. It’s just a lack of discipline, lack of awareness, lack of execution. It’s a tough way to finish up a long road trip.”
Denver will need to rely on center Nikola Jokic even more. Jokic had 24 points and 11 rebounds Saturday and nearly averaged a triple-double on the trip (18 points, 9.8 assists and 9.4 rebounds). But the Nuggets will need others to step up and for Murray to bounce back from scoring just four points Saturday.
“I got in there, had a turnover just because I wasn’t ready for what they had, being out, sitting out for 10 minutes and all that,” Murray said Saturday. “I just riled myself up to get in the game, and that hurt me in terms of they were already riled up to play. Next time I get hurt I just got to take it slower and get back to basics.”