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Nikola Jokić – A
Jokić rode a monster third-quarter to a Sombor Double in Sacramento—his seventh of the season—falling one rebound short of another triple-double. He put up eleven assists to no turnovers, staying patient in his approach as the Kings sent help while his teammates were cold from the field. He never stopped trusting them, even if he did get more aggressive in the second half. If his teammates were open, he found them. If they weren’t, he found them anyway:
Jokić’s quiet display of basketball acumen barely registers on a night when his Balkan Buddy, Luka Dončić, did something that not even Wilt Chamberlain had done before. But it’s what Denver needed to keep this train rolling in the right direction. 20-11-9 on 70% with no turnovers—just another day at the office.
Jamal Murray – B+
Murray’s playing sneaky good basketball right now. The shotmaking is coming back, and he’s pushed himself forward as a point guard. He’s considerably better at getting Jokić the ball in an advantageous position, and the game seems slower for him. He’s not separating easily nor looks in optimal shape, but he never looks panicked. His confidence on the floor is trending up, and this is the time of year when Murray typically finds his form. I’m buying if you’re selling.
Michael Porter Jr. – A+
Porter played a tremendous game in Sacramento. He was engaged defensively from start to finish, not just clearing the low bar he initially set for himself but flat-out making a difference. He kept his head up after missing some great looks to open the game and got involved near the rim. Watching Porter cut is a truly unique experience right now. He looks unsure of where and when to go, seems somewhat surprised by the pass, bobbles it briefly, and then scores. Just about every time. Never has a player looked so out of control and shockingly effective simultaneously.
After seeking out easy points, Porter got hot. His 11-point second quarter kept a sinking ship afloat. He also had something to say about the outcome of the fourth quarter. He wasn’t just good enough for Denver. He looked well worth the price against the Kings.
KCP – C+
KCP smoked some seemingly easy finishes in this one, but there’s important context to reiterate. Denver listed him on the injury report with a sprained right wrist, which probably impacted his shotmaking. He put it together in the final quarter and hit the shots that counted most.
Zeke Nnaji – D
Nnaji struggled in a golden opportunity starting alongside the first unit. He played in Aaron Gordon’s stead, and a mixture of his overzealous effort with a harsh whistle doomed him. He recorded six more fouls than points.
Bruce Brown – N/A
Brown left the game early with a right ankle sprain. He did not return.
Vlatko Čančar – C+
Vlatko logged nearly thirty minutes in a game that didn’t include AG or Jeff Green. He played well, flashing a bit of the all-around game that briefly earned him the sixth-man role. As we learned, that’s too significant a role for him, but someone has to be game ready at the end of your bench, and he’s shown us he can on multiple occasions.
Christian Braun – B-
Braun almost didn’t play in this one but eventually checked in after Brown rolled his ankle. He impressed defensively again. It’s confounding he didn’t make an appearance until another player went down, but Braun filled in admirably for Brown.
Bones Hyland – D+
Bones at least tried to get his teammates involved. His six assists were a step in the right direction. Still, his horrid December stretch continues. He’s ice-cold from the field and one of the weak links defensively. Perhaps the weakest on the roster right now.
Davon Reed – C+
Malone emptied the bench for this win. He turned to Reed in the second half with some success. Davon recorded two steals, grabbed two boards, and scored four points in his nine minutes.