The Denver Nuggets led end-to-end on the road in Charlotte, and they used a fast start and tough defense on Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker to end a three-game losing streak, 101-93. The Nuggets led by as much as 18 points in their most impressive win since beating the Los Angeles Clippers in L.A. on February 24.
The Nuggets got off to a fast start behind early 3-point shots from rookie stars Jokic and Mudiay, and the team jumped out to an early 12-5 lead. They failed to maintain the early momentum, and defensive lapses in the paint allowed Hornets’ center Cody Zeller a couple of easy dunks. The teams were tied at 16 points with four minutes left in the quarter following a 3-pointer from Hornets guard Nicolas Batum.
Rookie point guard Mudiay played aggressive throughout the period, going 2-of-3 from the field in the quarter and 2-of-4 from the free throw line, and his aggressiveness re-sparked the Nuggets offense. The Nuggets lived at the line in the quarter, and they maintained the lead after going 5-of-8 from the charity stripe.
For those of us on big-man watch, Michael Malone went to center Jusuf Nurkic first off the bench, but Darrell Arthur shined in the first. Arthur made his only 3-point shot and put up 4 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 assists in the first leading the Nuggets to a six point lead at the end of the first.
End of first: Nuggets up 28-22
The Nuggets bench continued their strong play to start of the second quarter behind wing Will Barton who had 6 points on 3-of-4 shooting at the nine minute mark in the second quarter, and Denver increased their lead to 34-22.
Malone continue with Nurkic well into the second quarter, and the big man continued to play well. Nurkic showed sparks of the swagger he played with last year, and his and-1 layup with eight minutes left in the quarter put the Nuggets up 39-27, D.J. Augustin followed with a 3-pointer and the Nuggets offense looked solid throughout, tallying 5 assists in the quarter.
The Nuggets defense complimented their offense, and they held Kemba Walker in check throughout the first half. The recently on fire Walker only shot 3-0f-10 from the field in the first half (1-of-7 from 3-point range), and the Nuggets took a 17-point lead into the locker room.
It was easily the best Nuggets best half of the current five game road trip.
End of second: Nuggets up 57-40
The start of the third quarter was defined by a continuing battle between Hornets center Cody Zeller and the Nuggets’ Jokic. Zeller blocked Jokic four times in the first half, and drew three fouls from Jokic in the third quarter, but Jokic responded with two hard layups and an assist in the third to bring his point total to 11.
The Hornets continued to struggle shooting from beyond the 3-point line (they were only 5-22 from three at the end of the third), and the Nuggets capitalized and extended their lead behind an and-1 layup from Sampson.
Darrell Arthur took also took advantage on the offensive end of the court, and continued his strong first half play. After back-to-back jumpers (one from 3-point range) from the power forward, and a dunk from JaKarr Sampson the Nuggets went up 71-50. Timeout – Charlotte.
The Nuggets went cold during the final minutes of the quarter, as they missed seven shots in the last five minutes and the Hornets cut the lead to 16 behind 10 third quarter points from Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin. It would have been 14 without a buzzer-beating runner from Will Barton.
Fourth Quarter – Starters: D.J. Augustin, Will Barton, Alex Toupane, Joffery Lavergne, Jusuf Nurkic
The Hornets continued to chip away at the lead behind three early post baskets from Al Jefferson, and the Nuggets’ lead was down to 11 with just over nine minutes remaining in the game. Nurkic couldn’t stop the Hornets’ big man, and he failed to answer him on the offensive end, as Nurkic missed his first three shots in the quarter. The Nuggets looked prime to blow a road lead against a hot team.
Enter Augustin. The Nuggets’ backup point guard lit. it. up, in the fourth. He answered Jefferson with two BIG 3-pointers to put the Nuggets back up 15 with just under seven minutes to go, and he scored 14 of his game high 24 points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the 3-point arc.
When D.J. finally missed a 3-pointer, Nikola Jokic fouled out with 5 minutes to go, and the Nuggets had me sweating after an Hornets used 10-1 run and back-to-back Batum 3-pointers to trim the lead to just five points with four minutes to go.
The Nuggets point guards rescued them again. D.J. continued his solid offensive play by getting to the line (making 1-of-2) and dishing out two consecutive assists – one to Arthur for a jumper and one beautiful skip pass to Harris for a dunk – and Mudiay came up clutch with tough driving layup to build the Nuggets lead back to eight points with two minutes to go.
Fittingly, D.J. swished a dagger fadeaway corner jumper to put the Nuggets up 10 with 1:30 left. Batum continued a solid fourth quarter showing with a runner to cut the lead to six points. It wasn’t enough as Gary Harris swished a pair of clutch free throws and Kemba Walker only finished with 15 points on 1-of-9 3-point shooting. Your Denver Nuggets are walking away from Charlotte with their first road win in their last five games
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC | March 19 | Regular season game 70
Play Of The Game
D.J. Augustin’s fadeaway dagger near the end of the game was just silky.
By the Numbers
The Nuggets used a well balanced offensive attack to get the road win. Seven Nuggets were in double figures, four starters and three bench players, and the team shot 50 percent from beyond the arc on 18 shot attempts.
The Nuggets head to Cleveland to face the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. It’ll be the last game of the Nuggets current five-game road trip, and they have the opportunity to go 2-3 with a win.