After getting Nikola Jokic back last night, the Denver Nuggets got zapping the other night in a back-to-back against the Milwaukee Bucks. Jokic, Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr. were all after the leaders of the Western Conference. Despite the absence, the team came out sluggish in the first quarter and battled back and forth throughout the quarter. Ish Smith provided a breakout off the bench, and a jumper from him in the final 15 seconds gave the team the lead 27-26 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, we saw the effects of the injured list. With more second-unit guys in the starting lineup, that meant Denver had to go deeper into their bench for minutes tonight. DeAndre Jordan was an early move off the bench and we also saw minutes for Ish Smith. Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton led the charge for Milwaukee in the second period, and they erased the deficit while extending their lead to five at the end of the half. They led 58-53 heading into halftime with the Nuggets down four starters.
In the third quarter, things started to develop and become volatile from both sides. The Nuggets were able to hang on for most of the quarter, but in the final minutes things unraveled. With the majority of the Bucks’ starters in the game, the Nuggets’ second unit struggled to keep pace. After getting within one, the Nucks steadily built an 11-point lead before Jeff Green hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to make it an eight-point game.
To start the fourth quarter, the Nuggets were sloppy and struggled on both ends. They trailed by 14 less than two minutes into the quarter, largely due to turnovers and poor shot selection. About four minutes into the quarter they went on a bit of a run and were within eight with six minutes left in the final period. The Nuggets got within five on a 3-pointer from Christian Braun, but they looked like they were running out of gas. That trend continued and the gap continued to widen. The Bucks went on a 7-2 run over about 90 seconds and their lead was now 12 with just under two minutes remaining. The Bucks would hang on late to win 107-99.
Heads of state
Points: Aaron Gordon-26
Assists: Bruce Brown – 4
Rebounds: Gordon – 13
Player of the Game: Aaron Gordon – 26 points, 3 assists, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks 10-of-23 field goals, 3-of-5 3-pointers, 3-of-4 free throws