The Nuggets are playing their best ball of the season.
The Nuggets came running right out of the gates tonight at the Staples Center, picking up right where they left off the last two games, extending their winning streak to three games.
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It was a valiant team effort fueled by great shooting and terrific passing against a very young and talented Lakers squad.
The Nuggets shot 66.7% as a team and dished out twelve assists in the first quarter alone. It was truly beautiful basketball to watch, as all of the Nuggets starters were brimming with confidence and never hesitating to make the extra pass leading to a wide open shot.
Every Nuggets starter had ten or more points by halftime, except for Nikola Jokic who had eight, but also had three blocks in just 16 minutes.
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56 of the Nuggets 66 first half points were scored by the starters.
Dec 7, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) reaches for the net during the second quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Mudiay is going through a hot streak.
A popular prediction heading into this match-up was the winner of the point guard battle would be a dictating factor in the outcome of the game.
Emmanuel Mudiay and D’angelo Russell were the first two point guards selected in the 2017 draft. Russell was the first one drafted at the number two spot, but Mudiay definitely won the battle in this match-up.
Russell was pointless at halftime while Mudiay had ten points, three dimes, and even pick-pocketed Russell and scored on a breakaway layup at the end of the half.
Mudiay looked confident with his three-point shot from the start, nailing two three pointers early in the game, and he was dishing out crafty assists the whole game. Mudiay’s defense against Russell was stout the whole night and it was easy to see he got into Russell’s head.
Mudiay looked hungry this game, and finished with 14 points and six assists as well as two steals.
Dec 28, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) reacts during the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 105-103. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Faried and Jokic are finding chemistry together.
Kenneth Faried continued his effective shooting after his 20-point outing against the Orlando Magic, scoring 10 points on 4-4 shooting along with two free throws in the first quarter.
The Nuggets fed off his energy throughout the game, and he defended Julius Randle very well. He finished with 20 points on 9-10 shooting and six rebounds.
Jokic eventually joined in on the fun on offense (as usual) when took fire in the third and fourth quarter when it mattered most, scoring eight points over the span of two minutes late in the quarter.
The beautiful touch on his shots and floaters left Lakers defenders confused all night long, and he ended the game with yet another double-double (his 14th of the season) posting 29 points and 15 rebounds.
The Big men have really been showing up for Denver as of late and Kenneth Faried has not bee fazed by Jokic’s glimmering success. Both have been huge for the Nuggets during this small win streak.
Dec 5, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) celebrates Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson
Barton was electric tonight.
Rounding up the excellent play from the starting unit was a consistently-clutch Will the-thrill Barton. With another setback suffered by Gary Harris, Barton took full advantage of the extra minutes and starting role going perfect 5 – 5 from three point land, while taking smart shots all night long.
He stole the show tallying a career-high 26 points on 9-16 shooting along with a season-high eight assists.While the Nuggets starters dominated, their bench play was an entirely different story. You could immediately sense a change in the game tempo at the start of the second quarter when the Lakers attacked the rim and scored with ease.
To be fair, the bench is still figuring out their roles, and an injury to Gary Harris doesn’t help at all. Juancho Hernangomez and Jamal Murray still looked uncomfortable throughout most of their time on the court, but Wilson Chandler and Jusuf Nurkic stepped up when they had to.
The Lakers came back late in the game with a flurry of three pointers from Nick Young, Lou Williams and Brandon Ingram, but the Nuggets were able hold on in crunch time with some clutch shots from Jokic, Barton and Gallo.