DENVER— After being told to get ready for his Denver debut, P.J. Dozier was quickly asked how many plays he remembered.
“I’m like, ‘Oh, shoot,'” he said.
So that’s exactly what he did — and made quite a splash.
Rookie reserve Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 points, Dozier had a big second half filling in for injured point guard Jamal Murray and the Nuggets beat the Charlotte Hornets 100-86 on Wednesday night.
“I’ve been preparing for this my whole life,” Dozier said. “I’ve been excited to have this opportunity. I hate that it had to happen under these circumstances. But (Murray) will be all right. I’ve just been trying to stay ready for this.”
Murray exited the game with 1:32 remaining in the second quarter after rolling his left ankle. He was helped off the floor by teammates. The banged-up Nuggets were already without Gary Harris (groin) and Paul Millsap (bruised left knee).
Enter Dozier, who finished with 12 points in 13 minutes. He had a stretch in the second half where he scored nine straight for the Nuggets.
Dozier was recalled from Windy City of the G League on Tuesday to provide depth. Dozier averaged 20.9 points and 7.7 assists in 16 games for the Bulls. He’s been called up before, but never appeared in a game for Denver.
Following the game, he didn’t check his phone immediately. But he knew who one of the first missed calls would be from — his mom.
Sure enough, there it was.
Before the contest was even over, Murray posted on his Twitter account about Dozier: “All I’m sayin is y’all better be ready to see my boy @Dozier_Kid shine. … dat boy can hoop!!”
No doubt. After his college days at South Carolina, Dozier wasn’t picked in the 2017 NBA draft. He appeared in eight games between Oklahoma City (two, 2017-18) and Boston (six, ’18-19) before signing a two-way contract with Denver for this season.
“I was super-happy for P.J.,” Porter said. “He’s stayed so patient.”
Porter carried the Nuggets for a stretch as he erupted for 11 of his points in the second quarter. He keeps taking his game to higher and higher levels. Coach Michael Malone’s trust level in him is soaring, too.
“I like whenever they run plays for me,” cracked Porter, who also had eight rebounds. “I’m trying to make plays for my teammates. I have to keep that going.”
Terry Rozier scored 20 points for the Hornets, who wrapped up a winless four-game trip.
“It was a tough road trip for us, some tough games,” said Cody Zeller, who had 11 points. “I thought we played well in spurts.”
Denver led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter before the Hornets closed on a 21-6 run. Bolstered by Dozier, the Nuggets steadily built the lead back up to a comfortable margin.
“They’re talented, they’re deep, they’re young and they play the right way,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “They’re a fantastic team.”
The Nuggets were rightfully fearful of a Hornets team that’s 15-29. Denver has struggled against teams under .500 all season.
“We’re not looking at records,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We have to go out and play our game.”
Murray was hurt when he tried to contest a 3-point shot by Rozier and appeared to land on Rozier’s foot. Murray instantly grabbed at his ankle as play was stopped. Murray had five points and one assist before exiting. He was also dealing with a sore back.
Dozier’s ready if needed.
“Just do as I do every day,” he said. “I prepare for every game like I’m going to play.”