Nikola Jokić – A
Jokić likely had no complaints over the first half of the action. He recorded four assists in the first five minutes and finished the half with ten while shooting only twice. The Nuggets were dominating, and their best player was ignoring the rim. A dream come true for the B2B reluctant MVP. He grew more aggressive in a sloppy second half. The Nuggets loosened their vice grip, and Houston made a slight push, enough to scare head coach Michael Malone into redeploying the starting lineup after seemingly retiring them for the night. The Nuggets lost the second half by seven, but the game never got too close. Jokić’s third-quarter scoring helped slow the bleeding.
Jamal Murray – A
Murray led all scorers with 26 efficient points, which looked easy. He’s moving gracefully again and has much more in the tank than when the season started. The second half was a slog for him not too long ago, but he now looks capable of four-quarter efforts. Getting to the rim doesn’t look nearly as taxing for him.
He shot the three ball confidently against Houston in both games. It was a decisive trigger from Murray. He didn’t hesitate on his catch-and-shoot opportunities and let them fly off the bounce when ignored beyond the perimeter. He did not turn the ball over in thirty-plus minutes, either. He took care of business Wednesday night.
Aaron Gordon – A
AG continued his stellar balance of taking and making open threes while challenging defenses at the rim. All twelve field goal attempts came from the paint or distance, and he knocked down two of the four 3s he put up. Houston has some young athletic defenders but no suitable matchups for Gordon, and he took advantage. My favorite play of his — a driving dunk from the right baseline — began as a potential off-balance three in the corner. Gordon thought about it, then thought better of it and took his defender to the rack. A couple of possessions later, he took and made a catch and shoot three from above the break. No hesitation. His approach is so good right now.
Bruce Brown – A
The Boss earned the DPOG chain after an all-around quality performance against Houston. Michael Malone lauded his defense after the game, and Brown shot 4 of 7 from deep in MPJ’s stead. He finished with 18 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, and just one turnover. We’re looking at one of the best signings by any team in the offseason, and with each game like this he notches, the prospect of maintaining him long-term seems increasingly far-fetched. But for now, Brown is right at home in Denver.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – C
KCP was the lone starter who struggled in this one, but I want to break the fall by acknowledging his persistent effort. Kevin Porter Jr. put him to work in the first quarter, and Pope struggled to hit shots. But he was out there hounding ball handlers and pursuing loose balls to the end.
Vlatko Čančar – A-
Čansanity continues. Vlatko checked in and scored eight points on 3-3 shooting in his first five minutes of action. He even added a dunk from just inside the free-throw line to his season highlight reel. He can’t stop making plays. You’ll have to pry that stock from Bill’s cold dead hands.
On a serious note, Vlatko was the first player off the bench, staggering with Bruce Brown. And it worked. We’re past Nuggets fan fiction here. Čančar is making a convincing case for consistent minutes.
Ish Smith – B
Ish blocked not one but two jumpers Wednesday night. He also put up seven assists, and Denver cruised through the bench minutes. God bless the Houston Rockets.
DeAndre Jordan – B
Malone turns to DAJ in this matchup, and Jordan validated that decision with quality minutes against an unimpressive bench.
Davon Reed over Christian Braun
The most notable aspect of Reed’s performance is that he played twenty minutes again while Braun was limited to garbage time. Malone is sticking to it.