Streaking Nuggets blast Hornets, 129-104, for seventh win in last eight games – The Denver Post
The Nuggets ran a beautiful basketball clinic at the expense of the Hornets on Wednesday night.
Charlotte came to Ball Arena riding a four-game winning streak and got promptly pummeled by the surging Nuggets. Following Wednesday’s 129-104 drilling, the Nuggets have won seven of their last eight games and are now 24-16 on the season.
“And now I can go home and celebrate with a pint of Guinness,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the game. “Or two.”
Riding the momentum of their latest victory, they’ll host the Bulls at home on Friday.
Nikola Jokic conjured his 10th triple-double of the season — 12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists — but left the fireworks to his teammates. Will Barton (23) had at least 20 points for the fourth consecutive game, and Michael Porter Jr. continued his torrid play.
In the four games entering Wednesday, Porter was averaging 22 points on 65% shooting and nine rebounds. He had game-highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds, adding to Denver’s drubbing down low. But the best part of Porter’s night, according to Malone, was his defense on Hornets wing Gordon Hayward, who finished with just seven points.
“You already know what I’m gonna say,” said Porter, when asked what stood out to him. Like Malone, he was most proud of his defensive effort.
The Nuggets pounded the Hornets with a 64-44 scoring edge on the interior, and as a team, served 37 assists. Their offense flowed as smoothly as it has all season.
Jamal Murray added 19 points, five assists and four steals in another complete effort. Facundo Campazzo registered his first-ever 10-assist game in the NBA.
Asked how he won his teammates over so quickly, Campazzo replied: “I think I love more playing with them than they love playing with me.”
Whatever it was the Nuggets did in the third quarter Monday against the Pacers, they did the opposite on Wednesday. Denver ran a de-facto layup line to start the third quarter, featuring alley-oops (Murray to Porter), mammoth jams (Murray and JaMychal Green) and put-back dunks (Porter). On one scintillating sequence, Campazzo threaded a needle to Jokic, who threw down his second dunk of the game and 23rd of the season.
The Nuggets owned the third quarter, dropping 38 points to Charlotte’s 22. They flipped defense to offense, dominated the paint and connected on five 3-pointers to all-but run the Hornets off the court. When it was over, the Nuggets had a commanding 95-67 edge.
Before the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone floated Charlotte coach James Borrego as a potential coach of the year candidate. Led by Lamelo Ball’s playmaking, the Hornets have turned into one of the league’s most exciting, and underrated, squads.
“They have great scoring on the perimeter,” Malone said. “(Terry) Rozier, Ball, (Gordon) Hayward, (Devonte’) Graham off the bench … For us, regardless of who we play, we know that we have an MVP candidate in Nikola Jokic, and we’re going to play through him. … If they’re going to play him straight up, you know Nikola can score. If they’re going to double-team Nikola, we know he’s going to make the right play, find the open guy.”
Without a stopper down low, Jokic cut up Charlotte’s defense. He and Barton orchestrated one of the highlights of the half with back-to-back no-look passes leading to an uncontested layup.
Save for some early turnovers, the Nuggets played close to a flawless first half Wednesday. Their ball movement was fantastic, often turning good shots into great ones. It was because of their unselfishness the Nuggets carried a 57-45 lead into the break.
Barton and Porter poured in 12 points each, while Jokic and Murray added eight each. As a team, they racked up 14 assists, with three different players tallying at least three dimes over the first two quarters.
But their most obvious advantage was inside, where the Nuggets pummeled Charlotte 28-20 on the glass and 34-20 on points in the paint. Porter, who had eight boards in 16 first-half minutes, made a huge impact with his length.