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Peyton Watson surprise start Denver Nuggets defeat Memphis Grizzlies

Peyton Watson's career night as a surprise starter led the Nuggets to a 142-105 win over Memphis at Ball Arena.

Peyton Watson's first start of the season was a bit of a surprise and featured a few other firsts. The 142-105 win over Memphis on Thursday at Ball Arena marked the first time Watson, who started in Aaron Gordon's place, made more than two and took more than five 3-pointers. It was also the first 20-point game of his career.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, "I won't get into the details, but Peyton was not originally supposed to start tonight, but he did. You get a chance like that and all of the sudden, you're called upon and you go out there and play like that, you make my job that much harder."

The career night didn't get off to the best start. Watson missed his first three shots and gave up a few baskets to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane on the other end. Malone went to Justin Holiday in the middle of the first quarter.

Despite the cold start, Watson kept firing. He went 1 for 3 on 3s in the second quarter but heated up in the third. He missed just one of his 3 attempts in the third quarter and finished the game 4 for 10 from 3. Both the makes and attempts set new career highs.

Once he was done from 3, Watson went inside to get a new career high in points. A couple of layups gave Watson 20 points on 14 shots in 23 minutes. He added five rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. His plus-28 mark was tied for the best mark on the team.

Earlier in the season, Malone said Watson assumed he would be in line for second-unit minutes. When that wasn't the case, 21-year-old started to work for playing time, eventually resulting in his first start of the season even if it was a surprise.

Denver improved to 23-10 with its highest point total of the season. The Nuggets survived a hot start from the Grizzlies, who were without Ja Morant due to an illness, and led by six at the end of the first quarter. The lead grew to 12 early in the second, and Denver led 65-48 at halftime. After leading by as many as 32 in the third, Denver led by 23 to start the fourth. The reserves handled the fourth quarter, extending Denver's win streak to six games.

Nikola Jokic got back to his efficient scoring self. Jokic made all six of his shots in the first quarter and started the second with 13 points. Jokic recorded his triple-double with his 10th assist late in the third quarter. He wasn't needed in the fourth and finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists and made all 11 shots he attempted from the field. He also made all three of his free throws. It was his first triple-double since Dec. 14. Jokic and Wilt Chamberlain are the only players in NBA history to record a triple-double without missing a shot multiple times.

Desmond Bane cooked the Nuggets to start the game. Bane got started with a couple of 3s before working his way inside. He made his first four shots and reached 10 points in a few minutes. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Watson tightened up their defense the rest of the way. Bane finished the first half with 13 points. Bane ended the game with a team-high 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting.

The Nuggets have a quick turnaround with Oklahoma City headed to Denver for Friday's game.

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