Something is happening at the Pepsi Center.
The Denver Nuggets are making 3s by the bunches. They sunk 24 of them Monday night, which was tied for the most ever in a regular-season game.
They are cracking jokes.
“You look good, you play good,” Nikola Jokic said about the slacks and button-down shirt he was wearing in place of his customary sweatsuit.
“All of our young guys have swagger. I don’t know where they get it. Maybe it’s just like cologne,” head coach Michael Malone said about his young group.
“You know I don’t wear it for you,” Will Barton said when a reporter commented on his pungent cologne.
And, most importantly, they are winning games.
The Nuggets defeated the Golden State Warriors 132-110 on Monday night. They were without five key players — Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Emmnauel Mudiay — plus recently acquired Mason Plumlee, and it didn’t matter. Denver got its 11th win in its last 18 games and climbed to 25-30 to hang on to its narrow lead for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
Denver’s young core of players shined against the best team in the NBA. Jokic (17 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists) had his second career triple-double. Rookie Juancho Hernangomez (27 points, 5-for-9 on 3s, 10 rebounds) made a spot start and made his case for more minutes by the time it was over. Gary Harris (16 points) played his usual smart, measured game. Jamal Murray (14 points, four assists) continued to make difficult shots and play with poise.
None of those four players are older than 22, a fact not lost on Malone.
“For me, the biggest thing is that I’m so excited about the moment, the win and where we are today,” he said. “But I’ll be honest. I’m more excited about where this team is going, not just this season but beyond. I think tonight’s game was a great example of that. You have Jamal Murray, you have Juancho, you have Nikola Jokic, you have Will Barton, you have Gary Harris. Those guys are all young kids, man. And for them to play at the level they played at tonight. Our fans should be excited about where this is going to go.”
Led by those four, Barton (24 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) and Jameer Nelson (23 points, seven assists), the Nuggets blitzed the best team in basketball from start to finish. They led 42-30 after the first quarter and 79-54 at halftime. They hit 16 first-half 3s and ended up tying a regular-season record with 24 treys.
The Nuggets now rank seventh in the NBA in 3-point percentage a season after finishing as a bottom-five team in that category. They are knocking in 37.1 percent of their long-range tries. They are tied with the Warriors for the most efficient offense in basketball since Jokic became the starting center Dec. 15.
The Nuggets have lit it up for two straight months offensively. Something is happening with the young basketball team in Denver. Are you paying attention?
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