The Denver Nuggets suffered their second straight blowout loss, falling 112-95 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
“Really tough night for us,” said head coach Michael Malone. “I told our players just now: We got one game to go before the break, and I do not want to go into the break on a three-game losing streak. That would make for a miserable All-Star break.”
The story of the game was the injury report.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was pulled late in the first quarter with right hamstring tightness and did not return. He was listed as questionable before the game with the injury but passed the requisite tests to get on the floor.
“The hamstring was feeling pretty good. Passed all the tests. But those soft tissue injuries are always hard. He just went out there and played, and as I was putting him back in the game, I said, ‘How do you feel?’ And he looked at me with a little bit of hesitation, and that’s when I told him, ‘Go sit down.'”
Jamal Murray left the game at halftime because of bilateral tibia inflammation.
“Jamal came to me during the first half saying, ‘I’m not feeling great.’ And I said, ‘Let me get you out.’ And he goes, ‘Let me finish the half and see how I feel.’ And then at the halftime, I shut him down,” Malone explained.
By the sounds of it, Denver was being cautious with their two starters.
“Yes, we want to win games, but Jamal and KCP are integral to our success. So, we’re trying to have a big picture with that,” Malone said.
Nikola Jokić led Denver with 29 points on 13-of-25 shooting, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antokounmpo was outstanding, as well, and recorded a game-high 36 points on 14-of-19 from the field, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, and 3 steals.
Jokić was exceptional to begin the ballgame and scored 14 of Denver’s 23 first quarter points. The wheels fell off in the second quarter when Denver went cold from the field at just 36.4 percent. This allowed Milwaukee to outscore them, 32-21, in the period and lead by as many as 20 points. A 7-2 Nuggets run closed the gap slightly and put them behind, 60-44, at the break.
That lead ballooned into a 28-point advantage in the third quarter. Jokić subbed out at the beginning of the fourth quarter and never returned. Aaron Gordon exited at the 8:06 mark in the fourth and Michael Porter Jr. joined him just under 2 minutes later, signifying the game was lost.