NUGGETS

Bench play ruins Nuggets, Denver suffers surprising beatdown in opener

Oct 19, 2022, 10:48 PM | Updated: Oct 20, 2022, 8:48 am
Nuggets Jazz...
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

That’s not how the Nuggets wanted to begin the 2022-23 season.

For a team that is finally healthy, and with dreams of a deep playoff run, the opener could not have gone much worse.

Denver was blown out in Utah by the Jazz, 123-102, in game that was out of hand by halftime. The Nuggets trailed 75-53 and despite a solid third quarter, could never get closer than seven points the rest of the night.

It ruined the returns of point guard Jamal Murray and forward Michael Porter Jr., who are both back in the fold for the first time in a long time. Murray missed all of last year with a torn ACL, Porter played just nine games.

The biggest culprit was Denver’s bench and their lackluster three-point shooting. The Utah bench outscored the Nuggets 68-24. The Jazz made 16 shots from deep while the Nuggets only buried five.

After the game, head coach Michael Malone let his team have it. He was already upset with the effort level outside of the third quarter.

While you can’t put it all on the bench, the Nuggets continued a troubling theme from a season ago. When back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic wasn’t on the floor, the team was bad. The Nuggets were outscored by 16 points without Jokic, and by just five in the 33 minutes with him. “The Joker” did his part, finishing with 27 points and six assists. He added three steals.

But this is also where Denver will need time. It wasn’t going to be magically fixed overnight with Murray and Porter healthy. The group will have to gel, especially with key new players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown joining the rotation.

Still, giving up 123 points to the Jazz isn’t good enough. Many think Utah will be in contention to pick No. 1 overall in the 2023 NBA Draft as they undergo a full rebuild.

It’s just one game, yes. But the Nuggets will need to fix their effort level, bench play and three-point shooting in a hurry. The defending champion Warriors await on the road on Friday night.

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Bench play ruins Nuggets, Denver suffers surprising beatdown in opener