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Another injury sidelines yet another Nuggets starter, but for how long?

Christian Clark Avatar
December 8, 2018

Six Nuggets for the number of 3s Nikola Jokic chucked up and missed in a 113-107 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.

1. The Nuggets are loaded at every position. Monte Morris is one of the best backup point guards in the league. Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez have exceeded expectations filling in on the wings for Will Barton and Gary Harris. And any team would be lucky to have Trey Lyles and Mason Plumlee as its reserve frontcourt combo.

“We’re the deepest team in the league,” Paul Millsap said Wednesday.

That might be true, but there’s only so many dings even the most talent-rich teams can withstand. Down three starters, the Nuggets couldn’t complete a comeback Friday. Denver cut Charlotte’s lead to three with 1:13 to go, but without Barton (hip/core), Harris (hip) and Paul Millsap, who took a nasty spill in the third quarter, it couldn’t get over the hump. Millsap exited the game with 6:22 remaining in the third and never returned.

Monte Morris told reporters in the Nuggets’ locker room following the loss that Millsap broke his toe and a league source confirmed to BSN Denver Friday evening that Millsap did suffer a broken toe on his right foot. The team could hold off on announcing a timetable for Millsap’s return until they arrive back in Denver later this weekend.

Winning without Millsap on Saturday in Atlanta — the last leg of this five-game road swing —  is doable. But things could get dicey on a four-game homestand versus Memphis, Oklahoma City, Toronto and Dallas if Denver is dinged up like this.

“If Paul’s not able to go tomorrow night that’s an opportunity for someone else,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “All season long, with all the injuries we’ve had, that’s been the mindset. We can’t worry about it and make excuses. We’ve got to find solutions. Hopefully we can find that tomorrow in Atlanta.”

2. The laundry list of injuries contributed to the Nuggets’ win streak ending at seven, and so did poor outside shooting. Two nights after an 11-for-19 3-point shooting performance in Orlando, Denver went just 8 for 35 from deep. Jokic missed all six of the 3s he attempted. His stroke has deserted him; he’s now dipped below 30 percent from behind the arc, a sharp decline after shooting it so well in 2017-18.

Jamal Murray is not faring much better. He’s sitting at 30.9 percent from 3 after an 0-for-4 performance Friday. Those two need to get going — especially if Harris, Barton and Millsap keep missing time.

3. You stand to make a nice sum if you hung onto that Juancho stock during his lost sophomore season. The 6-foot-9 Spanish forward has bounced back in year three. Hernangomez can singe the nets with his 3-point stroke, and he impacts the game in plenty of other ways. He’s averaging 1.7 offensive rebounds per game, an excellent mark for a small forward.

Hernangomez had a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double against the Hornets. He helped keep Denver in the game when it could’ve just thrown in the towel. His chemistry with Jokic is off the charts. He looks like he’ll be an important piece for years to come.

4. The Nuggets took Hernangomez 15th overall in 2016, and four spots later, they nabbed Beasley. Both of them look like legit NBA rotation players. Beasley scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Balance seems to be one of the keys to the talented 22-year-old’s success. This summer, he focused one jumping straight up and down on 3s instead of fading forwards, backwards or to the side.

‘When I shoot, don’t fade back,” Beasley said during the preseason. “Stay in my shot. Like I’m posing for a picture.”

That approach is paying off. Beasley, who knocked down 4 of 10 looks from 3 Friday, is shooting 41.3 percent on 3.4 long-range attempts this season.

Notice how he steps into this one. His base looks so solid.

5. Is there any chance we see Beasley get a chance to start while Harris and Barton are both out? Malone has preferred to go with Torrey Craig over Beasley in those situations so far. Craig defended Kemba Walker, who shot 4 of 11 from the field, admirably, but he didn’t give Denver anything on offense. Craig missed all five of the shots he took, including two 3s. Craig might be a safer option between the two, but Beasley makes Denver more dangerous.

6. The Nuggets don’t roll over anymore when things aren’t going their way. They trailed by 13 midway through the fourth quarter following a Walker pull-up 3. They could’ve packed it in. Instead, they battled, whittling that deficit all the way down to three. Their effort is more consistent from game to game this year. They’ve show impressive mental fortitude, which could be tested even further if they’re severely shorthanded in the games ahead.

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