By Christopher Dempsey, Nuggets Insider
LAS VEGAS — The Nuggets’ first foray into summer league play was a bit of a roller coaster ride, as they fell to Houston 102-99 on Friday night at Cox Pavilion. But the result is pretty much never the story in summer league where player performances take center stage.
And in that light, the game saw Malik Beasley heat up after the first quarter, finishing with 29 points on 12-of-30 shooting while adding six rebounds. The rising second-year shooting guard has been entrusted with shouldering a big production load in these games, and once he settled in he showed he was capable of holding it up.
“They’re trying to make things happen,” Nuggets summer league coach Micah Nori said. “He’s excited. He’s getting a chance to play. He’ll have to ice his elbow a bit; we got him 30 shots. But that’s fine. … I thought the way he competed, the way they way all of them got after it, I couldn’t ask for more. Some of the things, we’ll have to clean up.”
Beasley made 11-of-25 shots in the final three quarters after starting 1-of-5 from the field in the first. He displayed his normal ability to get to the rim, but it was finding the range from the 3-point line that was most encouraging. He made all three of his 3-point attempts in the second half.
“Just getting the jitters out,” Beasley said. “That was my first time playing in a while. It all came back.”
Beasley said he “always has butterflies. Every game you have little butterflies because you’re happy about the game. That means you love the game. I’m happy to be out there.”
Meanwhile, Juancho Hernangomez scored 21 points, playing with goggles after having recent Lasik surgery. Hernangomez, who played the majority of his time last season at power forward, started this game at small forward as the coaching staff gets a good look at him there and works to get him more comfortable at the spot.
Hernangomez didn’t necessarily like the goggles, though.
“It was so bad,” said Hernangomez, shaking his head with a grin. “When you are warm all of the (sweat gets in them).”
The Nuggets put themselves in an early hole, down 14 points in the first quarter before figuring things out. And by figuring things out, that meant picking up their energy on defense and on the boards. Defensively, they fought back in the third quarter, rallying to tie the game at 66 with 4:13 left in the period. But Houston ended that quarter on an 11-5 run, putting the Nuggets in position to have to come back again.
With 18.4 seconds in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets were close to doing just that. A pressing defense forced Houston turnovers and made shots on the offensive end saw them down just three points with the ball. Beasley’s 3-point shot missed on that possession and the Nuggets were forced to foul. The Rockets made one of two free throws and that was enough to seal the win.
“I thought the way that they competed and got back into the game was great,” Nori said. “We gave ourselves a chance, that’s all you can ask for.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org or @chrisadempsey on Twitter