The Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets will seek their fifth consecutive win on Saturday when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies, the second-place team in the West.
Denver returned from the All-Star break on Thursday, picking up where it left off with a 115-109 win at the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Nuggets rallied in the fourth quarter, holding the Cavaliers to just 18 points in the closing stanza.
All five Nuggets starters scored in double-figures, led by Michael Porter Jr. with 25 points, including 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. Thursday marked Porter’s third consecutive game making at least five attempts from beyond the arc.
“Mentally tough dude,” Denver coach Michael Malone said of Porter in Thursday’s postgame press conference. “Whether it’s three back surgeries, whether it’s missing his whole first season, missing 73 games last year, or going what he and his family are going through right now.”
Porter’s brother, Coban — a member of the University of Denver basketball team — was arrested last month on charges of vehicular homicide and reckless driving.
“Just because one thing isn’t going good in your life, you don’t just get to shut down,” Porter told the Denver Post.
Two-time reigning Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic recorded his third triple-double in the last four games and 22nd of the season with 24 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists. He is just two triple-doubles away from becoming the sixth player to reach 100.
One of Jokic’s triple-doubles came in Denver’s previous matchup with Memphis, a 105-91 Nuggets’ home win on Dec. 20. Jokic went for 13 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in that one.
The Grizzlies’ loss in Denver came shortly before an 11-game winning streak that spanned from Dec. 29 to Jan. 18. Since that stretch, however, Memphis is just 4-10 after losing its first game back from the All-Star break.
The Grizzlies dropped a 110-105 decision Thursday in Philadelphia, coughing up a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter and being outscored 10-1 in the final 1:24. One pivotal moment came with 1:12 remaining when Ja Morant went for a dunk to extend Memphis’ 104-103 lead, but Joel Embiid came from the blind side to block the Grizzlies’ 27.1-point per game scorer.
“I didn’t see him,” Morant said in his postgame media availability. “I was only seeing P.J. Tucker. It was a good weak-side block from him.”
The recent Memphis slide has coincided with starting center Steven Adams being sidelined by a PCL sprain since being injured against the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 22. Adams leads the Grizzlies in rebounding with 11.5 per game — almost five more per game than Memphis’ next-leading rebounder, Jaren Jackson Jr. at 6.7 — and his 1.1 blocked shots per contest are second to Jackson’s 3.3.
“(Adams) had good sessions over the All-Star break. He was doing a lot of stuff rehabbing, but he’s trending in a good direction,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said at the team’s media session on Wednesday. “We’ll have more of a time update probably at the end of the week.”
As for Denver’s roster availability, forward Aaron Gordon (rib) will miss his fifth consecutive contest. Gordon is averaging 17.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
–Field Level Media