|6:00 PM PT7:00 PM MT8:00 PM CT9:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)03:0021:00 ET8:00 PM CT0:00 , October 25, 2019
Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado Attendance: 19,557
Nuggets thinking big ahead of home opener vs. Suns
The Denver Nuggets have high expectations for this season, and two of their biggest building blocks are being counted on to lead the team despite their youth.
In the season opener on Wednesday, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray did just that. The duo led the Nuggets to a big win at Portland, getting a measure of revenge for a Game 7 home loss to the Trail Blazers in May. Now the Nuggets can take that momentum into their home opener against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
Denver earned a 108-100 win over the Trail Blazers even though Jokic played less than four minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Jokic took over in the fourth quarter and finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds, both team highs.
Murray was strong, too, contributing 14 points and six assists. They provide a 1-2 punch for a team that hopes take the next step in a more wide-open Western Conference this season.
"We're a championship-contending team, and that's the mentality that we're going to have," Murray said earlier this week. "I don't care what anybody says. ... We want to be a really good team and go further than just the second round."
To do, that they'll need to take care of business at home, especially against teams that are not considered playoff-caliber. The Suns are coming off an impressive 124-95 win over the visiting Sacramento Kings in their season opener on Wednesday, and they boast a lot of young, athletic talent.
Phoenix also has added some pieces to its core.
Point guard Ricky Rubio produced 11 points, 11 assists and four steals Wednesday in his Suns debut. He signed a three-year, $15 million free agent deal in the summer.
Jevon Carter, a second-year player who was with the Memphis Grizzlies last season, also scored 11 points against Sacramento in his first game for Phoenix.
The players are still getting a feel for each other, but if one game is an indication, it's a good fit.
"We just go out there, play hard and play together," Carter said after the Wednesday victory. "Sometimes it's going to work, sometimes it's not, but I feel more times than not it's going to work."
Denver, meanwhile, is largely the same team that reached the Western Conference semifinals last year. The biggest addition was forward Jerami Grant, who came over in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored nine points Wednesday.
The most intriguing player in the mix is forward Michael Porter Jr. He was the Nuggets' first-round pick in 2018 but sat out all of last season following back surgery.
Porter is healthy and is vying for minutes at both forward positions. He didn't play Wednesday night, which had more to do with the team's depth than Porter's ability.
Porter understands that with a roster full of high-quality players, he needs to be patient.
"This team you have so many talented players, Jokic, Jamal, Gary (Harris), Paul (Millsap), so many guys can put the ball in the hoop," Porter said in the preseason. "Last year I got the chance to watch the games and see how I fit in with the team and find my niche. My role will be different. Just fit in and help the team."
--Field Level Media
Updated October 24, 2019