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DNVR Player Grades: Jokic takes over in the fourth

Harrison Wind Avatar
December 16, 2019

Leading by 20 points in the first half and by 16 at the halftime break, the Nuggets looked to be cruising to an easy victory over the lowly New York Knicks.

But then a third quarter transpired that the Nuggets and Michael Malone would like to forget.

The Knicks outscored the Nuggets 33-20 in the third quarter and even led by five points at the 8:16 mark of the fourth. Denver was able to rally back to take a 102-100 lead with 3:48 left in regulation and hold on for the win.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Nuggets improved to 17-8 on the season with their 111-105 victory. Denver hosts the Orlando Magic on Wednesday at Pepsi Center.

Let’s go to the grades.

Honor Roll

Nikola Jokic – A

Jokic shot only 10 of 22 (45.5%) from the field but took over in the fourth. He tallied 11 of the Nuggets’ 24 fourth-quarter points over the final 9:12 of regulation on an efficient 4 of 6 shooting and brought Denver home down the stretch. Jokic lived on the block in the fourth, going right at Taj Gibson and whichever defenders the Knicks threw his way. His strong December continued Sunday. Jokic is averaging 23.7 points on 55.2% shooting from the field to go with 10.5 rebounds, and 7.3 assists over his last six games. He’s also shooting 35.5% from 3 over that stretch after struggling with his jumper for most of the season. Jokic’s signature play of the night came on a one-handed tap-out to a waiting Will Barton at the three-point line which came off of a missed floater from the Serb. Of course Barton drained the triple.

Will Barton – A

Barton has done it all for Denver this season. He’s scored when the Nuggets have needed scoring. He’s initiated out of the pick-and-roll when Denver has needed playmaking. He’s also defended opposing team’s top small forwards when called upon. Barton did a little bit of it all Sunday. He finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists while also contributing two steals and one block. The NBA’s leader in Defensive Real Plus-Minus played a central role in another Nuggets’ win.

Mason Plumlee – A

Plumlee has seen an uptick in playing time with Paul Millsap sidelined and logged 34 minutes against the Knicks. He contributed 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting, to go with eight rebounds, six assists, and two blocks. Plumlee’s ability to eat up minutes came in handy against New York and Denver benefited from his activity and energy. Also, here’s a sign of how much Malone trusts Plumlee. He logged 33 minutes Sunday — many of which came alongside Jokic — to Grant’s 27.

The Class

Jerami Grant – B

If Grant is indeed the Nuggets’ “power forward of the future” he’s getting his chance to prove it with Millsap out. Over the last two games, Grant has logged 46 minutes (or 23.1 minutes per game) alongside Jokic, and in those minutes Denver has outscored its opponent by 17 points (113-96). It’s been a good audition for Grant and although one of those games was against the Knicks, he looks to be getting more and more comfortable in the Nuggets’ system as the year goes on. Grant finished with 11 points and two rebounds in his 27 minutes.

Michael Porter Jr. – B

Porter tallied nine points on 4 of 8 shooting to go with eight rebounds, four of which came on the offensive glass, in 11 minutes of action. In his first stint of the game in the first half, Denver’s bench expanded its lead from 11 to 20 before New York closed over the final two minutes while Porter remained on the floor. Malone then went back to Porter when the Knicks were making their third-quarter run. The rookie finished as a minus-four overall but continued to flash his upside, showing his activity around the basket and on the offensive glass.

On the DNVR Nuggets Podcast we’ve talked a lot about how Porter has flourished when playing read-and-react basketball on offense, but he’s appeared lost at other times when Denver makes a play call. His comments after the Nuggets’ latest win support that observation.

“Last game when I was at the four I didn’t have the plays down like I should so I was thinking too much,” Porter said. “At the NBA level you just gotta play free.”

Porter added that the toughest part of learning the NBA game has to do with the on-court terminology. The game is slowing down for him but mastering the Nuggets’ play-calls is a critical next step for the 21-year-old.

Gary Harris – B

Fifteen points for Harris on 5 of 12 shooting, three rebounds, and three assists against the Knicks, and Denver’s two-guard also sunk two triples on six attempts in 38 minutes. The Nuggets had to play their starters way more than they wanted to in this one, and that’s reflective in Harris’ minutes but he’s looked much better as of late on the offensive end of the floor than he did earlier this year. He’s also up to 36% three-point shooting on the season after hovering around 32% and 33% throughout the early part of the year. He’s getting to the rim more regularly too.

Jamal Murray – B-

Murray hasn’t looked like himself since suffering a trunk contusion against the 76ers three games ago. He’s averaging just 13.3 points on 37.5% shooting from the field and 29.4% from 3 over the Nuggets’ last three matchups. Two days of rest before Denver’s next game at home on Wednesday could do him a lot of good.

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