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Denver Nuggets Play Without Pride Again

Brendan Vogt Avatar
March 11, 2023

Nikola Jokić – B

It seems irrational to hand out a B to someone who dropped 37-11-11 on the road. But Jokić reached new levels of avoidance on the defensive end Friday night. He couldn’t be bothered to give a proper contest at the rim and struggled even more when Sandro Mamukelashvili stretched him out to the perimeter in the closing minutes. We can call a spade a spade here — Jokić isn’t trying to get stops right now. And there’s something to be said about preserving oneself for the playoffs. But if that’s the game Denver is playing, they should be resting key players. Instead, Jokić logged 38:30 in another bad loss. The NBA’s best win streak during a triple-double has ended.

Jamal Murray – C-

Murray broke Will Barton’s made three-pointers record early in the game. Denver was firing on all cylinders and looked well on their way to a blowout. But after a tremendous opening stint, they let their foot off the gas again. Murray’s shot selection became suboptimal, seeming unwilling to take the open threes and grinding away for more difficult looks. He shot 3 of 11 from the field in the second half. Murray also struggled on defense for most of the night. He might have bailed Denver out with some clutch-time heroics, but Denver’s clutch-time defense couldn’t get the job done.

Aaron Gordon – C

Gordon looks like he could use some games off. He struggled mightily to contain Keldon Johnson and took his eye off the ball in transition. Gordon recorded three lost ball turnovers that typically result in easy points. Denver couldn’t make anything easy for themselves in San Antonio.

Michael Porter Jr. – Ejected

Porter went from uninvolved in the offense to the center of attention in a heartbeat Friday night. After snatching Zach Collin’s soul at the rim with a vicious left-handed dunk, Porter had some words for his opponent. Collins, pride hurting, sprinted up the floor to give MPJ a slight shove from behind and stuck his face in close, itching for conflict. Porter grabbed him by the neck before shoving him away. Both players were tossed. The ejection hurt his team, but it’s hard to blame Porter. Sometimes you’ve got to let them know you won’t be intimidated — especially when they’re Zach Collins.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – B

KCP rediscovered his jumper, at least. Pope rode three 3-pointers to 13 points, adding five rebounds and four steals. My favorite part about KCP’s game is how little one has to worry about his effort. He typically plays hard regardless of the opponent or the calendar.

Bruce Brown – D+

After an excellent start to the season, Brown’s stocks have come plummeting back down to earth. He’s suffered from the bench shakeup, which relegates him to a third, undersized guard on a unit with no identity on either end. The Nuggets did try the five-man bench lineup in the first half — Christian Braun sighting! — but gave up on it after one stint. As for Bruce, it’s been too long since he looked anything like what his reputation suggests on defense.

Reggie Jackson – D

Before unleashing criticism, it’s worth reflecting on how much Denver’s backup guards have struggled without Mason Plumlee or Boogie Cousins in the lineup. But it’s March 11, 2023, and Reggie’s task is to help this current bench find life. He’s not succeeding. So much of his game is about taking and making tough shots.

Jeff Green – D+

Green’s effort has been better lately, but there’s still a ceiling on what he can give you defensively and on the glass. Yes, the starters struggled, too, in this game. But the Spurs are so bad. The second unit has to provide more in these matchups.

Christian Braun – Pulled

Braun was pulled from the rotation after a surprise first-half stint. It’s hard to identify precisely why Malone made that decision.

Thomas Bryant – Benched

Bryant was benched after some uninspiring defense. He only logged 7:38 on the floor.

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