At the trade deadline during the 2020-21 season, the Denver Nuggets made a big move for Aaron Gordon. A few days later, they went on the road and beat the Los Angeles Clippers, who at the time were one of the league's leading title contenders and would eventually go to the Western Conference finals that season.
That performance, which was part of a nine-game winning streak that started directly after Gordon's arrival, is still talked about to this day as proof of the level this Nuggets group could reach. But Jamal Murray tore his ACL just 11 days after the win over the Clippers, and the Nuggets spent well over a year waiting to become whole again.
And that time has arrived. Murray is back, Michael Porter Jr. is back and they've added Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the mix along with Gordon and reigning back-to-back MVP in Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets are rolling and on Thursday night they welcomed those same Clippers to town for a national TV showdown. And just like they did two years ago, the Nuggets won with a showing that should send a statement to the rest of the league. This time, 122-91, to hand Los Angeles a fourth consecutive defeat as Denver moved back into first place in the Western Conference at 25-13.
The final score does not indicate just how dominant the Nuggets were in this game. It took a little over eight minutes for them to build a double-digit lead, and their advantage at times looked so comical that the announcers were wondering aloud whether they'd ever seen such a scoreline. At various points they led by as much as 43, including at the end of the third quarter when it was a ridiculous 102-59.
VLATKO CANCAR THROWS IT DOWN 😱— NBA (@NBA) January 6, 2023
NUGGETS LEAD ON TNT pic.twitter.com/vif7GGYjti
Given that neither side took the fourth quarter seriously, it's worth checking out some of the stats from the first three quarters. The Nuggets at that point were shooting 55.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point land, had six different players in double figures and nine different scorers overall. Through the first three quarters, they had made 20 shots in the restricted area while the Clippers had made 23 total shots.
Bones' reaction to his bucket 👀🤣 pic.twitter.com/mvqSxihjEK— NBA (@NBA) January 6, 2023
This was yet another dominant offensive performance from the team with the second-best offensive rating in the league this season at 116.7 points per 100 possessions. They have one of the most gifted offensive players ever in Jokic, multiple high-level perimeter shot-makers in Murray, Porter and Bones Hyland, lead the league in 3-point shooting at 39.8 percent and are second in the league in true shooting at 60.7 percent.
There are still questions about the defense, but the offense is so electric that it may not matter. In a wide-open Western Conference they are going to be in the mix to potentially go to the NBA Finals, and this win, just like the one two years ago, made that clear. Now, all they have to do is stay healthy.