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Denver Nuggets Return To Form In Ball Arena

Brendan Vogt Avatar
February 1, 2023

Nikola Jokić – A+

Nikola Jokić didn’t linger on the suboptimal results in Philadelphia. He didn’t overcompensate, either. It was business as usual for the back-to-back MVP, who followed his trusty blueprint for success. He’s averaging a triple-double on outlandish efficiency after posting 26 points (71.4 FG%), 18 rebounds, and 15 assists. He read the New Orleans defense like a pop-up book.

Jokić has developed an apex-predator switch, but he’d rather live in harmony with his surroundings than dominate them. While he’s often in complete control, writing that Jokić dictates the action might sometimes be erroneous. After all, it’s his preference to manipulate what the defense *wants* to do rather than bend it to his will. Life can be easier this way when you’re a basketball genius.

Jamal Murray – A

Sharing the floor with a basketball genius can make life easier for teammates. Murray’s adept at leveraging Jokić’s gravity into scoring opportunities, but he still lets the defense off the hook throughout the game. For all his scoring brilliance, sometimes he takes the scenic route to points.

That wasn’t the case Tuesday night. Murray punished the Pelicans for every blown block-and-roll or slightest hesitation when picking him up beyond the perimeter. He was shot-ready and unflinching in catch-and-shoot opportunities. Merciless. His 7 of 12 performance from deep led him to a game-high 32 points and helped keep a desperate Pelicans squad at arm’s length.

Michael Porter Jr. – B

Let’s call this a patchy performance for Porter. He opened the game in poor form offensively but stuck with it after a slow start. He found ways to contribute on either end of the floor for short stretches. Lapses in focus, dropped passes, and lost dribbles were admittedly littered throughout a generally satisfactory contribution. Ultimately, Porter was more helpful than anything in his role.

Aaron Gordon – A-

Gordon played a fantastic complementary game against the Pelicans. He made life difficult for Brandon Ingram and flashed his tertiary (drink) playmaking ability. He posted six assists with no turnovers. Despite some trouble at the free-throw line, he scored efficiently. AG’s value on this roster popped.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – A-

KCP was a menace. He posted six combined steals and blocks and got seven 3s up as the starters cruised. Three of them dropped, and he matched AG’s 15 points. Speaking of complementary performances, KCP might lead the league in the non-existent category. Pope is sharing the floor with a basketball genius again, and it doesn’t take one to recognize his utility in the role.

Bones Hyland – D

Bones and the bench struggled for nearly five minutes before Malone pulled the plug on a moribund unit. Hyland sat and watched as a new group found some success without him. The writing is on the wall.

Bruce Brown – D+

That was a game to forget for Bruce Brown. He couldn’t stop turning the ball over. Still, we’d do well to remember how things changed for him alongside a different second unit after halftime. He knows how to get stops and run.

Christian Braun – B

The bench didn’t morph into the KD Warriors without Bones. But they did tread water after the first group nearly drowned. Braun joined Brown, KCP, Jeff Green, and AG to complete a lineup that turned defense into offense. He provided a spark, as he’s wont to do.

How does Malone find CB minutes? Moving away from Bones is one way to do it. The deadline looms large.

Jeff Green – D+

While it’s true that Green was a part of the unit mentioned above, he was hardly the engine for the newfound defensive intensity. He also grabbed zero rebounds in nearly 19 minutes on the floor. How does that happen?

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