Denver Nuggets

Paul Millsap shines as Nuggets outpace Warriors, 108-102

Paul Millsap had himself a night in his Denver Nuggets debut! The newly acquired big man was feeling it from deep tonight, shooting 4-6 from behind the three-point arc and tallying an impressive 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists to help lead the Nuggets to a 108-102 win in Oracle against the defending champion, Golden State Warriors.

From opening tip it was clear that the team had upped their defensive intensity compared to last season. Players were active with rotations and putting forth a ton of effort for the entirety of the shot-clock on the defensive end, holding the Warriors to just 21 first-quarter points. The Warriors struggled all night with their three-point shot, finishing just 4-33 from deep, at least some of that should be creditted to Denver’s defense which looked improved in effort and focus if not in execution.

The offensive got off to a more clunky start. In his first seven minutes on the floor, Nikola Jokic had a hard time finding play-making opportunities, instead playing the role of floor spacer and finisher. He finished the game with a solid 12 points on just 2-5 shooting thanks to a team-high seven made free throws but only dished out two assists including this no-look, over-the-head dime to a cutting Gary Harris. The offense ran through Millsap mostly when the two shared the floor and after the first four minutes or so, that seemed to work out pretty well.

The Nuggets really took off once Jokic went to the bench and Millsap was able to lead a second unit. In both the first and third quarters, the Millsap-plus-the-bench unit got off to a hot start. Even the early minutes in both quarters in which Millsap was replaced by Trey Lyles were impressive. It is noteworthy that Kenneth Faried did not see any minutes in tonight’s game while Lyles played 22 and finished with a well-rounded 6 points 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.

The point guard battle saw highs and lows for both Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay. Murray got the start and opened the game with a nice three-pointer but then dissapeared for most of the rest of the first half. Mudiay’s defense really stood out in the first half as he seemed especially focused on fighting through screens and closing out plays. There were plenty of classic Mudiay moments – he finished with 4 turnovers and missed two shots at the rim – but overall he looked much improved, confident, and made some dazzling plays. He finished with 19 points and 6 assists on 6-10 shooting. Murray caught fire in the second half and finished with 9 points and 1 assist.

The Nuggets are back in action on Monday as they head to Los Angeles to take on Lonzo Ball and the Lakers.

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