Ish Smith came up clutch for the Denver Nuggets as he hit a mid-range jump shot to give the Nuggets their first pre-season win. Denver prevailed over the Phoenix Suns by a final score of 107-105 on a night where the Nuggets did not even suit up Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Aaron Gordon. Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton were all active for Phoenix.
The Denver Nuggets came into the night willing to experiment a bit. With three of their four core players out, Denver started their bench brigade with the exception of Michael Porter Jr. The team’s defense was a focal point coming into the game and after the first quarter, it looked like it was still a work in progress. They went into the second quarter trailing the Suns 35-30. However, it was clear there were promising signs for the supporting cast.
Bones Hyland had another great game as he had nervy moments where he was dueling with Chris Paul. He traded buckets with him a few times and even took him on the defensive end in a few instances. Hyland is looking much calmer and more composed. Especially when driving to the lane compared to last season when he would sometimes get out of control. The six-foot-three guard finished the night with 16 points, six rebounds, and two blocks.
Another unsung hero of the night was the veteran, DeAndre Jordan. The backup center grabbed four offensive rebounds to go along with his 10 total boards while in a starting role. Jordan also got a few solid second-chance points and received praise from the head coach, Michael Malone, after the game.
Plenty of praise on Ish. Also said it was Jordan’s best game. The biggest thing is 10 boards in 22 minutes. pic.twitter.com/byvEg7y8BK
— Darren McKee (@DMacRadio) October 11, 2022
As Malone also alluded to, the man of the night was Ish Smith. Smith, now on his 13th different team in his veteran career (he has had two different stints with the Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards) is hoping to be a solid veteran mentor on this Nuggets squad with title aspirations. Many Denver fans are glad to have Smith in a Nuggets jersey now considering he has been dubbed a “Nugget killer,” by much of the fandom. For his career, Ish Smith has averaged 6.4 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game against Denver. In one of his most recent games where he faced the Nuggets as a member of the Charlotte Hornets (December 23, 2021, to be exact), Smith had a player differential of +27. All in all, he has had great spurts in contests against the Nuggets.
— NBA (@NBA) October 11, 2022
Michael Malone even expressed his relief that he was on the team after the KCP trade this summer. Whether Ish Smith will have a significant role on the team going forward remains to be seen. However, it paid dividends for at least one night. He had the game-winner over Ish Wainright, but he also was a solid backup guard for Bones Hyland all night. At the end of the night, he finished with numbers of 17 points, seven assists, and a field goal percentage of 58.3 percent. As a result, Ish Smith’s big night gave the Denver Nuggets their first pre-season win.
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