Playing in Denver on the second of a back-to-back used to have this look more often than not.
Team X arrives late at night, and even if they played a yawner the night before that didn’t tax them too much, they were still too tired to keep up with the Nuggets, who ran their legs off early and kept the pressure up all night.
Saturday was that game for these Nuggets. Orlando was the opponent who had a relatively easy win over Phoenix the night before. That didn’t matter. The Magic quickly burned through whatever energy it had conserved in trying to keep up with the Nuggets on the Pepsi Center court.
And the Nuggets won, 125-107.
It wrapped up a wildly successful homestand in which the Nuggets won five of the six games. They’ve won seven of their last nine overall and are 6-2 at home in this still-young season. Saturday’s win? Powered by Jamal Murray.
The second-year point guard heated up early and broke out in a big way, setting a new career-high with 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Included in that was a career-high six 3-pointers. Nikola Jokic nearly had a triple-double with 12 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists, and Paul Millsap also nearly had a triple-double with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
“It was a lot of fun to watch those guys play,” Malone said.
Production came from everywhere.
But it was the guards who got the Nuggets off on the right foot. Murray led with 22 first half points, but Will Barton and Emmanuel Mudiay provided support. The three combined for 70 points on 25-of-45 shooting. Barton had a season-high 26 points and a season-high nine rebounds. Mudiay hit double figures yet again with 12 points.
But it was Murray’s night.
“Jamal and I talk a lot,” Malone said. “I talked to him after shootaround the other day and said, listen, you’re not shooting it consistently because you take a different shot all of the time. If you want to be a shooter, you have to take the same shot all of the time. And I want to see you start being more disciplined with your shot. And the other thing I said is ‘You’ve got to be aggressive.’”
“I was just shooting,” Murray said. “One of the coaches on the staff…said if you’re open, shoot it. And I did just that.”
With the three guards in rhythm, the Nuggets never faltered. They built a 30-point lead in the third quarter and never looked back. Orlando never seriously challenged the rest of the way.
“What I like is offensively you can see we are starting to figure it out. You can see the confidence, the chemistry, the spacing, guys playing off of each other but more importantly, guys are playing for each other. We have a lot of weapons and obviously we had a great offense last year. Takes some time to acclimated these new guys into the lineup – we have a new player in Paul Millsap. But for me, you’re starting to see us offensively find our rhythm and find our groove.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.