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After limiting Damian Lillard to just 1-10 shooting, the Denver Nuggets came out of the Moda Center with a 106-97 victory over the Portland Trailblazers and 3-3 record through six preseason games.
Here’s what to take away from tonight’s matchup:
Jamal Murray plays a preseason-high 34 minutes
With Emmanuel Mudiay sidelined with a minor ankle injury, veteran Jameer Nelson got the start as opposed to the rookie Murray. This was purely in name as Murray played a game-high 34 minutes and even shared the floor often with Nelson. Nelson held his own with the first unit but it was clear who was the better player tonight. Murray not only showed off his ability as a creator, but keep the offense moving and ball moving all night.
While Mudiay makes plays using his superior size, athleticism and floor vision, similar to Wizards guard John Wall, Murray uses the threat of his deadly scoring to create opportunities for his teammates, like Houston’s James Harden. Watch here how Vonleh is forced to move far away from the rim as McCollum gets stuck on the screen, leaving Faried open for the dunk:
If it were Mudiay on this play, Vonleh could have stayed closer to the basket and dared Mudiay to pull up from midrange or try the tough floater; instead, Vonleh knew that if he did that against Murray, he would pay the price like Ed Davis learned here:
Murray’s rare shot-making ability forced opponents to respect him at any spot on the floor and he took full advantage of that tonight, whether it was burying open jumpers on his way to 15 points on 5-11 shooting or setting his teammates up for three assists. Murray also showed no lack of effort as he scrapped and clawed his way to three steals on the night to go along with seven rebounds, third-highest on the team behind the Bosnian frontcourt.
Jusuf Nurkic stays on a roll
The Blazers had absolutely no answer for Denver’s big bodies down low, especially struggling with the mountain of a man that is Nurkic. The Blazer defenders had to resort to fouling early and often, leading to a hefty 12 free throw attempts for the Nurkic in the first half alone. Nurkic made Portland pay, hitting 9-12 from the charity stripe. Nurkic just seemed to carve out space in the middle, making his presence felt against the Blazers’ smaller lineup:
Nikola Jokic struggled from the field going 2-8 tonight and has not been too spectacular in the preseason thus far. Having Nurkic in the middle has pushed Nikola further outside on offense, where even though he is be capable of scoring, takes away some of his ability to be a playmaker in the post. With all the focus on whether or not the “Jurkic” lineup would work on defense, the offense still has kinks to work out as well.
Wilson Chandler looks like his pre-injury self
Chandler played well in place of the resting Danilo Gallinari, pouring in a team-high 18 points on a scorching 7-10 shooting and was 4-5 from three. Chandler was scoring from both inside and out, dropping daggers from the perimeter one play and taking it into the teeth of the defense on the next.
After missing last season following hip surgery, Chandler’s versatile game was sorely missed and will be a major boon to Denver’s already deep bench. His ability to fit into virtually any lineup will be beneficial this season as a band-aid to any unforeseen injuries and will help coach Michael Malone sail smoothly through any metaphoric bumps in the road.
Moda Center, Portland, Oregon | October 16 2016 | Preseason Game No. 6
NUGGETS STAR OF THE GAME
Chandler had his best game back from injury yet as he provided steady scoring throughout the night dropping 18 points on 7-10 shooting and 4-5 from 3-point range. After seeing Gallinari win last game’s “Nuggets Star of the Game” award, Denver must be feeling extremely confident in their small forward rotation this year.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Nuggets will fly to Oklahoma City to face the new-look Thunder on Tuesday October 18 before returning to Pepsi Center for their last preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday October 21. Denver then opens up the regular season on the road against the Pelicans in New Orleans October 26.