Nikola Jokić – A+
Nikola Jokić won’t stop posting triple-doubles, and the Denver Nuggets won’t stop winning at home. They survived an early air raid from the shorthanded dubs and posted 134 points in regulation with relative ease. Jokić was masterful, enjoying his nearly full-strength roster and putting the Warriors’ defenders in a torture chamber. This matchup has changed a lot since the playoffs. Sure, the Warriors were without Draymond Green, but Green can’t defend Jokić 1-on-1, which is suddenly necessary given Denver’s rediscovered potency. When they sent help, it was reluctant, and it was punished. If they didn’t, Jokić scored. Basketball can be simple sometimes. Jokić posted 16 assists to three turnovers while shooting 9 of 13 from the field. He was nearly flawless offensively.
Jamal Murray – A+
Murray struggled on defense out of the gate but cleaned it up before the night was through. And before the third quarter was through, he’d put his fingerprints all over a budding blowout. He scored ridiculous 17 points in those 12 minutes. Jokić rescued the game with a late surge to close the first half, and Murray flipped it on his head with a bonafide flurry on the other side of the intermission. Steph Curry played a great game, yet one could still argue Denver had the best two players on the floor Thursday night. Murray was aggressive as a scorer and surgical as a playmaker. In addition to his 33 points, he put up eight assists with just one turnover.
He left some points on the floor from 3, where he was aggressive, getting eleven attempts up. I love the high volume. Had he been a little hotter from a distance, we’d be talking about one of the best performances of his career.
Michael Porter Jr. – B
It was all about the three-point shooting for Porter Thursday night. And all is well that ends well. He did shoot 5 of 9 from a distance. It wasn’t Porter’s best all-around contribution — we’ve seen him more disruptive on defense and active on the glass — but his elite shooting changed the floor’s geometry and aided the starting lineup. Those five cruised even without Aaron Gordon.
Vlatko Čančar – B+
Vlatko caught the spot start in AG’s stead and was excellent. While he sometimes struggled to guard the explosive Kuminga, he returned the work on the other end. Vlatko poured in 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting. After the game, in his ever-humble fashion, he credited his success to being the worst player on the floor. Someone has to be open, joked Čančar. Leave him open at your own risk, especially in the corners.
KCP – B+
KCP could have been even more efficient had he played all his minutes with the starters. But he got aggressive off the dribble as a scorer late in the game, with varying success. Still, those minutes were significant. He played alongside a Bones-less bench group designed to get stops and run. They did their jobs. And he was the same cinderella fit alongside the starters we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
Bruce Brown – B+
Brown played a tremendous game off the bench. As usual, he was a key fixture of the stagger, which is a significant factor in the discrepancy between his +/- and the rest of the bench. But the other factor is just how well he played. Brown was aggressive on the drive, shot confidently from deep, and limited himself to just one turnover.
Christian Braun – B
Just add Braun, some water, and mix. Now, you’ve got yourself some stops on defense.
The rookie will score little, but he’ll find just about every other way to help your squad. He finished with five rebounds and two steals in nearly 19 minutes. CB is relentless.
Zeke Nnaji – C
Zeke’s first five minutes were tremendous. He played with the desired tenacity at a time when Golden State was threatening to separate. He blended into the background for the remainder of the game.
Jeff Green – F
Green was getting some cardio in. He took three shots and missed them all. It’s all zeros in the box score save for two turnovers and a foul. When AG returns, I’m all in favor of these minutes returning to Vlatko. They must be earned.