MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Jamal Murray didn’t take long to erase a badnight against Brooklyn.
Murray, who was missed 10 of 11 shots against the Nets last timeout, connected on his first four on Sunday en route to a season-high 39 pointsas the Nuggets dominated the Memphis Grizzlies for a 131-114 victory.
“It was just preparation,” Murray said of the difference. “I mean,I know I didn’t shoot well (against Brooklyn), so I wanted to bounce back.Start out by being aggressive. Miss or make.”
Murray added eight assists with no turnovers on the night, whileconnecting on 14 of 24 shots, including 7 of 12 from 3-point range. Murraydidn’t play in the fourth quarter after Denver held a 108-80 lead after three.
“I had a feeling he was going to come out not only beingaggressive, but shooting the ball at a high level,” Nuggets coach MichaelMalone said. “He’s too good of a shooter to continue shooting the way he hadbeen recently.”
Paul Millsap had 23 points and Juancho Hernangomez finished with15. Jerami Grant added 12 points as Denver won for the sixth time in the lastseven, scoring a season high in points.
Jaren Jackson Jr. led Memphis with 22 points, including acareer-high five 3-pointers. Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and 10 rebounds.Brandon Clarke finished with 19 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter whenthe game was out of reach.
A promising start offensively for Memphis, led by Valanciunas,eventually turned as the Nuggets’ defense tightened. Ja Morant’s flashy movesin the paint, along with other inside shots by Grizzlies shooters ended upreturned by Denver rim protectors.
Denver’s seven blocks, coupled with nine Memphis turnovers in thefirst half, translated to a 72-49 Nuggets lead at the half. The major damagecame in the second quarter with Denver outscoring Memphis 44-17.
“They raised their level to an elite level, and our guys justcouldn’t really catch that second gear. It just wasn’t our day,” Grizzliescoach Taylor Jenkins said, later adding: “We tried to claw back here and there,but that second quarter kind of got away from us.”
Murray already had 26 points by halftime, and characteristic of ayoung Memphis team, the Grizzlies simply didn’t have the experience to counterthe Nuggets’ burst. Denver would eventually lead by as many as 33.
“Tonight, they just made shots,” said Morant, who had 13 pointsand six assists to go with four turnovers.
The Nuggets had 29 fast-break points to only 10 from Memphis, muchof Denver’s a result of a defense that recorded 10 blocked shots and forced 16Grizzlies turnovers leading to 25 points.
“I think that’s a fun way to play when you can play defense, whenyou can rebound and get out and run before they set their defense,” Malonesaid. “When you are running and sharing the ball, it is even that much morefun, so it was great.”
Nuggets: Gave up 100 points for only the second time in the lastseven games. … Will Barton, who was listed as probable after having leftadductor tightness against the Nets, started but was limited to six points. …Previous high for points this season was 121 against Atlanta on Nov. 12. …Hernangomez was 5 of 6 from the field, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.…Had 36 assists, a season high.
Grizzlies: Valanciunas has reached double figures in 12 straightgames. … Memphis has made at least 10 3-pointers in seven straight games,matching the franchise record set in March of last season. … Entered the gameleading the NBA with 55 points in the paint per game. Managed only 40 againstthe Nuggets.
Hernangomez, in his fourth season out of Spain, was praised byMalone for the energy he brings to the Nuggets. Malone said the 6-foot-9forward is contagious with the energy. “He’s one of the best teammates I’veever had,” Murray said. “He’s always the first one to stand by the bench andclap for his teammates and cheer. He’s always talking, even if he can’t talkEnglish.”
Nuggets: Open a four-game homestand against the Houston Rockets onWednesday.
Grizzlies: Host the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.