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Denver Nuggets Deal With Shorthanded Lakers In Ball Arena

Brendan Vogt Avatar
January 10, 2023

Nikola Jokić – A

Nikola Jokić posted the second-most impressive triple-double on 100% shooting of his career. He only took five shots on his way to 14-11-16 and a win. He led both teams in rebounds and assists. It’s becoming impossible not to take him for granted. Many will cry they’d never commit such a sin, but I’d insist it’s inevitable. With the exception of his early season blues, Jokić’s greatness is a constant. With the team returning to full strength around him, there’s finally something to sink our teeth into beyond, marveling at his unique talent. He spent the last two seasons proving his indisputable impact on winning basketball games. Now, with the right pieces about him, it doesn’t just look routine. It looks easy. His greatness isn’t the story anymore.

Still, it’s our duty to push back. To bring our heads up for air every now and then and reflect on our privilege as Nuggets fans. We’re watching a tier-one necromancer.

Jamal Murray – A

Despite Jokić’s high assist total, the Nuggets got away from their healthy process on offense. There were a lot of ‘my turn, your turn’ shots going up, and in that sense, no one took better turns than Jamal Murray. He posted a season-high 34 points on 29 shots. It began a much more efficient affair, but Murray was hoisting them up in his final minutes on the floor. He wanted 40, and it’s hard to blame him.

Beyond taking and making tough shots, Murray did continue to show encouraging signs of improvement. He’s on a terrific stretch of looking shot-ready and firing away when open. He looks craftier and quicker on his way to the rim. He’s not particularly explosive yet, but he’s turning corners again. It’s coming together for him.

Michael Porter Jr. – C+

Porter’s in a weird funk right now offensively. He’s missing open shots you’d expect him to make, yet every time I’m ready to consider it a concerning slump, he takes and makes a tough one. On the bright side, he’s more playable than ever when missing shots these days. He can still make an impact defensively and on the glass.

Ultimately, Malone pulled him for Bruce Brown after one too many mistakes against the Lakers. Porter’s due for a better game. Denver can still get more value out of him without sacrificing their identity.

Aaron Gordon – C+

Gordon’s performance helps to highlight the dynamic described above regarding Denver’s process. Five of AG’s eight shots came from 3-point land. He stopped following the recipe that’s gotten him so far in short order here in Denver. It’s not that he played too poorly — he rebounded well and blocked four shots. But the shot profile and four turnovers betray a suboptimal approach against a compromised opponent.

KCP – B-

KCP got a lot of shots up against his former team. It might have been one too many shots, but he recorded 16 points and played winning basketball. He was all over the floor, selling contact like an indie-circuit wrestler. Denver finally has their own flopper. Ethical hoops be damned. There’s a craft to selling a call, and the former Laker brought some of his tricks with him.

Bruce Brown – B

Life is good here for Bruce Brown. He gets to wear Cowboy fits. No one asks him about Kyrie Irving. And absolutely no one runs him off the line.

Brown shot 3 of 7 from deep off the bench. He’s shooting over 40% from 3-point land, and while I keep waiting for that number to fall, he keeps finding open looks. It’s a slow release, but a beautiful arc, and those shots are dropping in Ball Arena.

After the game, Brown gushed again about his time in Denver. “This is probably the best locker room I’ve been a part of,” he told the media.

Bones Hyland – C

The shots dried up for Bones, but he benefitted from a depleted bench in LA. Denver won their bench minutes, and Bones can leave the setback in the past. Sometimes a short memory is a player’s best friend in the NBA.

Zeke Nnaji – B-

Thankfully, no one’s tinkered with Nnaji’s approach to perimeter defense. He still does that at a high level for a 4/5 in the NBA. It was on display against the Lakers and the feather in his cap for the performance.

The growing pains reared their head in the form of poor fouls and unreliable hands. It’s almost mystifying how he can struggle to corral rebounds. Yes, he plays out of position often, but he was a capable rebounder in college. It’s the most significant realistic area of improvement for him.

Vlatko Čančar – C

It wasn’t a great game from Čaki, but he logged rotation minutes in another win. He surely has no complaints this morning.

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