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Denver Nuggets Run Los Angeles Clippers Out Of Town

Brendan Vogt Avatar
January 6, 2023

Denver Nuggets – A+

There’s only one grade today: an A+ for the Denver Nuggets. From top to bottom, they were prepared for a National TV battle with theoretical contenders. The Los Angeles Clippers couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean Thursday night, but it wasn’t all shot luck. Denver turned up the defense and played with far more urgency despite the Clips’ struggles entering the game. Even Michael Porter Jr. contributed to the stellar team defense. Michael Malone gave him the DPOG chain, which may have been for his work in the first five minutes of the contest.

The Clippers played so poorly that it almost muddies the picture of Denver’s excellent performance. The starters were locked in early. Jamal Murray had that look in his eyes again. I half expected him to yell “Go Home!” at the Clippers bench — a would have been homage to his glorious play in the bubble. He and Aaron Gordon’s early work opened up a quick lead, one Denver never relented.

It wasn’t the first time the starters have handed a big lead to the bench, but it’s one of the only times they have when the bench subsequently increased the lead. Bones Hyland, Zeke Nnaji, Vlatko Čančar, Bruce Brown, and KCP brought the energy. They got stops, they ran, and they let it rain from deep.

It was another quality performance for Bones as he works his way out of a doghouse he built in December. He was shot first this time. There’s no doubt about it. But the shots fell, and he avoided any turnovers.

Ball Arena is buzzing these days. The excitement is palpable, and there might be no better play to capture that feeling, to inspire that excitement, than a 3 from Bones. It’s the ultimate cherry on top of a separating run. He’s young, flawed, and still working to earn a reputation as a consistent player. But man, Bones is dynamic.

He got some help this time too. Čančar continues to play well as this story evolves from something cute to something significant. Forget the weight-lifting buddy jokes or the antiquated perspective that he’s but a fresh body in practice. Vlatko can play, and he’s finally broken into a rotation in Denver. He’s doing it during their potential championship run. It’s a remarkable story. He can dunk, he can shoot, he can pass a little, and he defends well. There’s little to dislike about the way he’s playing.

When the Nuggets entered the locker room at the half, Nikola Jokić and MPJ had combined to shoot 1-9 from the field. And yet, Denver led by 34 points. The stars from Los Angeles never returned to action, and Denver never let up as they finished the blowout. It was a rare four-quarter effort that pleased the coaching staff and fan base equally.

And so now it’s time for other fans around the league to worry aloud about their team’s commitment. The Clippers must reassess their approach to this season. They have to ask themselves tough questions right now about caring and about believing. The Boston Celtics are going through something similar, their resounding win over Dallas notwithstanding. It’s a familiar dialogue for Nuggets fans. It dominated the first third of the season. But Denver seems to have weathered that early storm.

The Nuggets are playing good basketball. This win firmed up the ground beneath those who labeled the Wolves loss a scheduled one. We’re watching one of the very best teams in the league right now. Of course, the job’s not done. To peak in January isn’t anyone’s goal. The Nuggets have their eyes set on the ultimate prize. It’s their task now to remain focused.

At the very least, here and now in January, Denver is delivering us the joy we desperately hoped to feel this season. And after too long in Limbo, the diehards deserve it.

The city wants it. The city can taste it. The city is ready for the run they were promised.

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