The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-99, sending LA to a 0-4 start, while Nuggets star Jamal Murray played just under 28 minutes – his longest stint this season.
Murray scored 13 points on 40 percent shooting from the field, grabbed 4 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists.
The 25-year-old guard struggled from behind the arc, shooting just 1 of 7 but had a monster dunk on a fastbreak in the first quarter.
“I just walked over to him in the huddle, gave him a big hug, and said, `Hey, man, big picture. I believe in you. I love you. I know who you are, and I know where you’re going to be at some point,”” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
Murray tore his ACL in April 2021 and missed all of last season due to the injury.
His injury was one of a rash of injuries to plague the NBA during the compressed season after the COVID-19 pandemic ended the regular season.
Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic almost had another triple-double with 31 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists. Jokic is one more triple-double away from surpassing Wilt Chamberlain for the most in NBA history as a center.
Four other Nuggets, Murray, Bruce Brown, Jeff Green, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, also scored in double figures, and Denver bested the Lakers across the board in game stats, including shooting 81 percent from the free throw line compared to LA’s dismal 68.8 percent.
And while new coach Darvin Ham had his team playing defense for the first time since LA won the bubble title, the Lakers gave up 35 fastbreak points.
“We work on our principles, we watch film on them, we talk about them all the time. I hate to use the altitude as an excuse, and I’m not going to do that but guys gotta be committed consistently. They’re a fast team. Jokic likes to throw deep, long outlets,” said Ham. “That’s the first line of defense, your transition defense. We’ll go back, look at it, and try to see what we can fix.”
The Nuggets host the Utah Jazz at home Friday, and the Lakers travel to Minnesota to try and get their first win of the season.