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Denver Nuggets Handle Business With Blazers In Town

Brendan Vogt Avatar
December 24, 2022

Nikola Jokić – A-

It’s been some time since Nurkić truly gave Jokić trouble. It’s been some time since Portland rivaled Denver or inspired much fear. And it had been some time since the Denver Nuggets trotted out 15 available players. One of those things changed Friday night when Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. returned to the lineup. The rest stayed the same.

Denver, back to full strength and full size, defended well, including Jokić who played with good energy on that end for much of the night. It all made life hard on Nurkić, who fouled out and left the Nuggets game early as he’s wont to do. Jokić, meanwhile, just missed on a thirty-point triple-double. He played well and got plenty of help this time. The win wasn’t about any A+ performances, but rather a quality showing from the entire squad.

Aaron Gordon – B

Gordon only shot nine times, and eight of them were in the paint. It was a different start to the game from his previous duel with Jerami Grant (there can only be one). Gordon was quieter this time, but AG played well again. He’s relentless in his good decision-making right now.

KCP – B+

The Nuggets handed out two DPOG chains after the game, and KCP took one for his work on Anfernee Simons. It’s a group effort to slow one of, let alone both Lillard and Simons, but KCP played a big role in limiting the youngster to 6 of 22 shooting. Pope knocked down 3 of 5 shots from beyond the arc as well.

Jamal Murray – A-

Murray was in his playmaking bag all night, but we had to wait until the second half before the shotmaking came. Once it did, it filled out a nice-looking box score and put the cherry on top of an all-around performance. Murray set up his teammates, eventually knocked down his shots, rebounded well, and took home the other DPOG chain.

Michael Porter Jr. – B+

Porter played winning basketball in the third quarter and it came just in time. The game was slipping away, but he and Murray put it all on the line. Porter even dove on the floor for a loose ball in his first game back from an extended absence. I’m no lip-synching extraordinaire, but I swear I saw Malone yell, “Yeah, Mike!”

Porter is a unique player. He is a transcendent talent with a nightmarish injury history and a slow start to his professional development. He’s often viewed and even pitched as a boom or bust talent, but we miss out on the full picture when we view him through that lens. His third quarter was reminder that he can make a positive impact outside of simply draining 3s. Porter limited his mistakes on defense, put forth a solid effort as a rebounder, and even resumed his highly-effective cutting to the rim.

Bruce Brown – B+

If there were three chains, Brown should get the third. With Porter in the lineup, Brown was a guard defensively once again. He’s so disruptive there, and he took Dame’s early scoring outburst personally. Seemingly as a matter of pride, he changed his approach, got into him, and forced the hard shots. Dame will hit those too, but you can’t give him the easy ones. Bruce adjusted and ultimately did a good job guarding one of the league’s most dynamic scorers.

Bones Hyland – C+

The Bones minutes were a bit of an adventure, but Portland isn’t particularly deep, so Denver kept its head above water in the non Jokić minutes. Every player logged a positive +/-, including Bones. He recorded just one assist, however.

For all of Bones’ scoring ability, his emerging playmaker status was the cause for my initial excitement. Before his rookie season ended, he flashed a future as an NBA point guard. He’s more or less abandoned that part of his game lately. It’s sorely missed.

Jeff Green – N/A (this section has been edited)

Jeff Green fractured his left hand and sprained a finger, Per Woj. He will be reevaluated in a month.

Zeke Nnaji – B-

Nnaji played a sneaky good game Friday night. Box score hunters will miss out on what made it so. Denver’s far more willing and able to switch with Nnaji on the floor, and that yielded positive results against the Blazers. After the game, Malone credited his work when he switched to Simons.

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