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Denver Nuggets Return to Form in Brooklyn

Brendan Vogt Avatar
March 20, 2023

Can they build momentum off the much-needed win?

Jamal Murray – A-

Jamal Murray started the game with a bang. He shot out of the gate with 20-quick points, shaking Mikal Bridges and an army of approximates to bury jumper after jumper. He shot 4 of 4 from three-point range, picked up three assists, and did not turn the ball over in his first 12 minutes of play. He was extraordinary.

Unfortunately, Murray cooled off considerably. He scored only five points in the second quarter and went scoreless the rest of the way. After the considerable contribution, there’s no shame in it, but it’s fair to criticize his failure to adjust. Crunch time featured far too little Jokić. Most of that falls on Murray’s shoulders.

Nikola Jokić – A

Jokić responded to a lackluster outing in Madison Square Garden with an MVP-caliber performance in Brooklyn. Denver needed a win, and he came out focused. Before turning it up, he deferred to Murray’s hot hand in the opening quarter. He was steady in the second, then dominant in the third.

Nic Claxton avoided foul trouble this time and played much of the game. That resulted in a preferable playing field for Jokić. Brooklyn didn’t commit to the small-ball look that made it so challenging to get Jokić the ball. They still sent help, but he made them pay when they did. Jokić racked up ten assists while only turning it over once. His 22 points came on 9/12 shooting. He should have shot more than 12 times, but that’s a lot to do with Denver’s failure to work through him in crunch time. Perhaps his most significant improvement over Saturday’s performance was on the glass. He inhaled 17 rebounds.

Michael Porter Jr. – A

Porter wasn’t benched this time. He was spectacular against the Nets in Brooklyn. A slow start from three forced a quick adjustment of approach. He put his stamp on the opening quarter with five rebounds and began working closer to the rim. Four of his six first-half field goals came in the paint. At halftime, he led all players with seven rebounds. He opened the game in the third with a Porter Quarter, scoring 10 points on 3 of 4 shooting and knocking down his two attempts from 3.

The knock on his performance, and perhaps the next obstacle for Porter to clear, is making a mark in the fourth. He knocked down an important three late in the game but shot 1 of 5 to close it out.

Aaron Gordon – C

In addition to looking worn down, Gordon is beginning to color outside the lines a bit on offense. He needs a reset. He might need some rest.

KCP – C+

KCP needed to see his jumper fall after a rough outing. He knocked down two of four attempts from 3 in Brooklyn. With Murray going thermonuclear in the first, Malone called an audible and turned to KCP as the stagger-man. The bench didn’t thrive, but with Zeke Nnaji back on the floor, they did get some stops and scored on the move. It was a welcome sight.

Zeke Nnaji – B

Nnaji provided more rebounding and defense than we’ve seen from the backup big in some time. His return was a success, even if Denver lost his minutes. Foul trouble got in the way of a needed adjustment from Michael Malone. Nnaji pushes the bench closer to a true identity, and they need one in the worst way.

Bruce Brown – C

Brown made a mess on offense, but he is playing with more energy on the other end. Those mistakes are tolerable if he can sustain the renewed focus. He’s on the roster to get stops.

Jeff Green – F

The Nuggets are better off with Jeff Green on the roster. He’s a respected and well-liked vet. Still, mounting evidence suggests they’re better with Vlatko Čančar on the floor. He shot 1 of 6 and grabbed zero rebounds in 18:06 played against the Nets.

Christian Braun – C

Braun was a part of that defense-oriented bench featuring Nnaji and KCP, but early foul trouble spoiled the fun. Reggie Jackson played in his stead, which undermined the defensive identity.


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