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“You don’t overreact, but it’s disappointing.” – Michael Malone
Nikola Jokić – C
Jokić didn’t look particularly interested in changing the outcome Wednesday night. The Nuggets were headed towards a disappointing loss at home, and the back-to-back MVP looked unbothered by the possibility. The Nuggets will have to fight against complacency down the stretch. They’ve entered the low-leverage portion of the season and are tasked with a tightrope walk of sorts. They don’t need to overextend and potentially hurt themselves, but they want to be at their best when the playoffs start. After the loss, Jokić insisted each game still matters for that very reason. The problem is it didn’t look that way while he was playing.
The other Nikola, Chicago’s Vučević, turned in a better performance this time around. Jokić fell short of a triple-double, scored under twenty points, and snapped his streak of consecutive games shooting over fifty percent from the field.
Jamal Murray – C–
Murray began the day just two made threes away from snatching Will Barton’s crown. And that transition will have to wait, as he ended the day still one made three away from breaking the record. Murray shot 1 of 7 from deep and 4 of 15 from the field. Of course, Barton missed eleven straight when on the cusp of breaking JR Smith’s record. So there’s precedent should we see further delay. As for the primary task of beating the Chicago Bulls, Murray had little to offer. And he’s hardly alone in earning that criticism. The Nuggets no-showed.
Michael Porter Jr. – C-
Porter turned in his first bad game in quite some time. It’s not just that he missed shots. The well-documented commitment to impacting the game in other areas — effort on defense, timely relocation, fighting for boards, and quick decision-making — never materialized. His was an unfocused effort.
Aaron Gordon – B-
Playing hard wasn’t the issue for Gordon. He grabbed six offensive rebounds and was the Nuggets’ second-highest scorer in 28:48 on the floor. He was grinding away near the rim, determined to score through the teeth of the defense. But he had to fight for it — almost none of it looked easy, and some of it looked downright painful. About halfway through the third quarter, AG grabbed an offensive rebound and missed two putback opportunities. He appeared visibly uncomfortable, clutching his right shoulder or close to it. But he stayed in the game.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – C
Pope was working to draw contact, sell calls, and force turnovers in any way he could. That was welcome, but more of a contribution was needed. His jump shot is off the mark right now. We’d love to see it come back around before the playoffs begin.
Bruce Brown – C
Brown didn’t look like the main culprit in the loss. Despite a couple of turnovers, he played hard, knocked down the few shots he took, and rebounded well off the bench. But his minutes went disastrously for Denver. Brown was a -24 in 22:47 played. He struggled to defend without fouling.
Reggie Jackson – C–
Reggie knocked down a couple of prayers from deep, but that’s where the list of his contributions ends. The bench minutes went poorly again. After the game, Bruce Brown fielded roughly the thousandth question of the season on the second unit’s chemistry. “We’re going to need all 16 games left to figure it out,” Brown admitted. Whether it’s been Reggie, Jamal, Bruce, or Bones Hyland at the helm, this unit has yet to unveil an identity or inspire belief.
Jeff Green – C
Green knocked a couple of threes down and secured four rebounds in 15:29 on the floor. He was no savior, but he was not the reason the ship sank. And he needed to play — Vlatko Čančar, and Zeke Nnaji both were unavailable.
Thomas Bryant – C–
Bryant logged 10 points after knocking down two 3s in garbage time. They didn’t matter to the result of the game, but it might matter to Bryant, who’s looking for anything to jumpstart his Denver tenure.