Down four starters, Nuggets nearly pull off 27-point comeback vs. Suns
Published in Basketball
DENVER — Technically, the Denver Nuggets lost.
But Phoenix’s 100-93 win on Friday evening couldn’t have felt great for the victors.
Denver, which was missing four starters, cut a 27-point lead to just four on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter and nearly snatched their most improbable win of the season. On the second night of a back-to-back and with Nikola Jokic (calf), Jamal Murray (knee), Michael Porter Jr. (heel) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (non-COVID-19 illness) all in Denver because of various ailments, Aaron Gordon was game.
So was Bruce Brown, Reggie Jackson and Peyton Watson. All of Denver’s contributors gave a deep and profound scare to the Suns, who acted like the game was over in the third quarter.
Gordon had a team-high 26 points in 36 minutes, Brown had 16 points and three steals and Jackson and Watson both played far and above their recent roles.
Kevin Durant scored 30, while Devin Booker added 27. That they even played in the fourth quarter was a testament to the Nuggets’ resilience. The loss dropped the Nuggets to 51-26 on the season with just five games left in the regular season. They’ll be back at it Sunday against the Golden State Warriors.
Even though 80% of the starters were in Denver, as evidenced by their effort, the game still mattered.
Peyton Watson: The Nuggets’ second first-round pick has spent most of this season in Grand Rapids developing with the Gold. Team officials are extremely high on him. His length and 6-foot-7 frame are intriguing, yet he hasn’t had many chances to play meaningful minutes this season.
That’s what Friday was for. Defensively, he was active and swarming. At various times the 20-year-old found himself matched up against Durant, Chris Paul and Bismack Biyombo. He got the latter for two blocks in the first half and also forced Durant into a rare contested miss. If he was the primary defender, it was rare for him not to offer a strong contest.
Offensively, it was way more of a mixed bag. Watson was a bit lost within the flow of the offense and a little bit erratic. All of that was fine. Nuggets coach Michael Malone was pleased with how his rookie competed. It might be two years before he’s contributing on a regular basis, but team officials understand they need to be patient with him. His potential is glaring.
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