The NBA season is a slog of 82 games, filled with good and bad stretches for teams. The Denver Nuggets were in danger of an extended bad stretch when they went to Portland on Thursday night having lost three in a row.
They battled back and stole a victory on Jamal Murray’s 3-pointer in the final second. That win should give the Nuggets plenty of momentum when they host the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
Murray, still at times looking for his old form after missing all of last season because of a torn ACL, was vintage in the fourth quarter in Portland when he scored 14 of his 21 points. It was a bounce-back performance after a span in which Murray missed 10 shots in a row from deep.
He felt miserable after the Nuggets’ one-point home loss to Dallas on Tuesday night but atoned for it against the Trail Blazers.
“I ain’t felt that in a long time, while I’m struggling, while I’m in foul trouble, while we’re trying to win,” Murray said about the game against the Mavericks, in which he was 2-for-11 from the field and had five personal fouls.
According to the Denver Post, he texted coach Michael Malone after Tuesday’s game to tell him this: “I have to be better; I can’t let my frustrations get the best of me.”
Denver probably is feeling a little frustrated with Michael Porter Jr. out again with a left-heel strain. Porter, who missed all but nine games last season after back surgery, is averaging 16.4 points a game but hasn’t played since Nov. 22 against Detroit.
Malone said Thursday there is no timeline for Porter’s return.
The Nuggets could get a break facing a Utah team that played at home on Friday night, a 118-108 loss to Minnesota, two nights after a wild win over Golden State.
The Jazz played Friday’s game without Lauri Markkanen (illness), Johnny Juzang (wrist), and Simone Fontecchio (ankle). They did get Mike Conley back after the guard missed the previous nine games with a left-leg injury.
“I’ve been working, and we’re still working through some things, but the only way to get through it is to kind of work your way back in it and test the water,” Conley said before the loss to the Timberwolves.
It was a somewhat emotional game against Minnesota with the return of Rudy Gobert, who played for Utah for nine seasons before a trade sent him to the Timberwolves this past summer.
The Jazz won’t have him to battle Nikola Jokic on the inside Saturday night. Jokic is coming off another near triple-double with 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists against Portland, the fifth time this season he has come within an assist or rebound of a triple-double.
He does not have a triple-double in the two meetings with Utah this season. He put up a better stat line in an opening-night loss at the Jazz with 27 points than in Denver’s 117-101 win over Utah on Oct. 28 when he had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
It was Bones Hyland who was the problem for the Jazz that night; he hit seven 3-pointers and scored a game-high 26 points.
–Field Level Media