© 2024 ALLCITY Network Inc.
All rights reserved.
Can you believe it? It’s finally time for another report card after waiting 143 days to see those Denver Nuggets play basketball again. There won’t be a lot of players on the Honor Roll after a 125-105 loss to the Miami Heat in Denver’s re-opener, but the Nuggets have a small runway to work with before they need to take off. Keep your hands away from the panic button—for now.
What should have been a glorious morning was almost ruined by an update to the injury report, effectively derailing the hype train before the trip got started. The Nuggets were without three-starters and three of their most important players in Jamal Murray (right hamstring tightness), Will Barton III (knee), and Gary Harris (hip). The apparent silver lining, however, was that set of circumstances forced Malone’s hand, as Michael Porter Jr. caught the start, Bol Bol played 11 minutes, and the two even shared the court with Nikola Jokić for a short stint. The stars aligned for MPJ to make a big impression, but he turned in a poor effort. More on that in the grades.
The lopsided final score is the aftermath of a disastrous third quarter, but it doesn’t reflect how well the first half went for the shorthanded Nuggets. Jokić and company led after 24 minutes, piquing the intrigue of those who witnessed that famous win in Utah, and even their shorthanded scrimmage victory over Washington. The defense wasn’t perfect, but the Nuggets played with a focus and determination on that end. They ground their way to a competitive half.
That effort waned, much to Malone’s vocal dismay after the game — notably so from Porter Jr., whose infamously short hook has been storyline number one all season long in Denver. MPJ didn’t make his typical impact on the glass and wilted against multiple on-ball screens. Malone opted for a more defensively-oriented lineup in the third, which backfired as the Heat retook the lead and ran away with one of their own. Denver couldn’t recover and make it competitive.
All told, six players on Miami reached double-digits in scoring, with Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, and Kelly Olynyk breaking 20 points.
Let’s go to the grades.
Nikola Jokić – A-
This Honor Roll concession comes somewhat begrudgingly. The Nuggets needed an A+ game from him, and he couldn’t deliver — but he was asked to do so much on the court, and did so much well. While Adebayo and Olynyk each boasted a tasty stat-line, Jokić was active and disruptive on defense in the first half. He also tied the team-high with 19 points, led the team with 7 rebounds, and recorded a team-high 6 assists. He did turn the ball over 3 times, but perhaps the biggest blemish on his night was the way he deflated with the rest of us as the lead slipped away. He was a much more significant factor in the first-half, and Denver could have benefitted from watching their leader see it through regardless of the result.
Torrey Craig – B+
Craig took one of the vacated starter spots Saturday, and can’t take the blame for the disappointing results. He scored 10 points on 57% from the field, grabbed 5 rebounds including 3 on the offensive end, recorded 4 assists, and was the lone starter to avoid a turnover. Malone mentioned after the game that not everyone played hard — we know he’s not talking about Craig.
Jerami Grant – B
Grant tied-Jokić with a team-high 19 points and shot 50% from the field. Without a proper rewatch, a handful of poorly timed misses stand out when recalling his performance. Despite the efficient scoring, we probably saw one too many post-ups and chaotic drives. But that probably tells us more about Denver’s stalling and shorthanded offense than it does Grant’s shot selection. He played with a freedom today he might not enjoy with the team at full strength. Someone needed to score, and he obliged. The real knock on his performance is the rebound column — just 2 in 26 minutes.
Mason Plumlee – B-
Plumlee’s been solid through 3 scrimmages and now one game into the restart. In 16 minutes, he scored 7 points on 3-of-4 from the field, grabbed 5 boards, and dished out 2 assists. His effort today was nothing to write home about and nothing to complain about either.
Bol Bol – B-
It looks like Bol-mania hasn’t wrapped up just yet. Bol soaked up 11 of the available minutes due to injuries and held his own in his real debut. He scored 5 points on 2-of-4 shooting, grabbed 4 rebounds, and dropped jaws with his one assist:
Bol Bol with a gorgeous dime pic.twitter.com/YPUdSeLzct
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) August 1, 2020
Here comes the glass of cold water: however enticing and exciting a prospect he’s shown himself to be, Bol remains a project — particularly on the defensive end, where he appears a little lost more often than not.
Monte Morris – C+
Morris stepped up and turned in a genuine effort to fill Murray’s shoes, but he’s not the same player, and couldn’t make the same impact. In 28 minutes, he scored 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting, hit 7 of his pleasantly surprising 8 attempts at the free-throw line, and picked up 5 assists. But he turned it over 3 times in uncharacteristic fashion and only attempted one shot from deep, which he missed.
Michael Porter Jr. – D+
If he’s in the coach’s doghouse, I suppose he belongs in the Principal’s office as well. The truth is MPJ did not play well on Saturday and didn’t appear as willing to grind through it as some of his teammates. He scored 11 points in 24 minutes, missed 6 of his 8 attempts from deep, and only grabbed 1 rebound — which might be the most damning stat from his night. Rebounding comes naturally to him, and he typically rolls out of bed with a few offensive rebounds under his belt. It reflects a less than stellar effort.
PJ Dozier – D+
Dozier struggled in 16 minutes. He took 11 shots and only hit 3, whiffing altogether from deep
Paul Millsap – F
Yikes. I’m as high on the Millsap signing as anyone, but this was a brutal restart to the season from Denver’s resident Dad. He missed 6 of his 9 shots, scored only 8 points in 28 minutes, and worst of all looked a little slow on defense. The 35-year-old former All-Star makes his living on that end of the court, and it was somewhat disheartening to see him plod around out there.