Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate DNVR Sports Community!

Golden Nuggets: Monte Morris speaks his mind amid a quiet locker room

Christian Clark Avatar
November 14, 2018

Eight Nuggets for the number of words Nikola Jokic used to describe the third quarter of Denver’s 109-99 loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

1. The game felt like an endless loop of Clint Capela dunks. Capela threw down nine of them in all on his way to an 11-for-15 shooting night. Nine dunks!

The Nuggets had no answer for the Rockets’ spread pick-and-roll attack. James Harden, Chris Paul and Capela sliced through Denver’s defense like an ax through an apple. Harden had 22 points and 11 assists. He carved Denver up with passing in the first three quarters before taking over as a scorer in the fourth.

The Rockets shot 54.1 percent from the field and got anything they wanted inside. They converted 24 of 32 looks from 5 feet and in — indicative of how much the Nuggets struggled to rotate.

The Nuggets were the NBA’s top-rated defensive team as recently as Saturday. They’ve slipped to sixth after losses to the Bucks and Rockets. Finishing first in defensive efficiency was never realistic. But things are headed in the wrong direction.

“We are not getting stops,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

2. The Nuggets’ longest losing streak in 2017-18 was three games. They’ve already exceeded that mark in 2018-19. Denver is still 9-5 after dropping four in a row, but it needs to stop the bleeding Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks. How can it do so? Players taking accountability is a start, Monte Morris said.

“It’s all about taking constructive criticism,” Morris said. “We all make mistakes. How are we gonna bounce back from adversity is the big thing. If somebody gets on you, you’ve just got to man up, take it because that’s just going to make us all better. Going forward, I feel like that’s going to be the approach for us. Just people calling people out. If anything goes bad, you’ve got to take the criticism and move forward and win basketball games.”

3. By the way: Morris was a bright spot in a loss once again. He scored a team-high 19 points on only 11 shots. He hit three 3s and did a nice job of finishing around the rim when lanes opened up. Morris logged 31 minutes — the fifth time this season he’s played 25 minutes or more. The second-year point guard out of Iowa State is so solid on both ends. Malone is going to have some difficult decisions to make when Isaiah Thomas returns.

4. The third quarter was the difference. Houston outscored Denver 32-21. Capela dunked the ball four times in that quarter alone. Houston shot 11 for 17 from the field; Denver, meanwhile, went 8 for 20 with four turnovers.

“We didn’t play good, and they scored a lot,” Jokic said.

5. Jokic has been terse with the media lately, and that continued after losing to Houston. A sample of the back and forth:

Q: How does the team stay positive during the losing streak?

Jokic: “I don’t know. We’re going to see the next game. I don’t know.”

Q: How much stress does Clint Capela put on a defense?

Jokic: “A lot.”

Q: What’s been the biggest issue the last four games?

Jokic: “I really don’t know the answer to that question.”

The joy Jokic exuded during his first three seasons is nowhere to be found lately. The Nuggets’ best player seems like he’s down in the dumps.

6. Give Denver’s bench unit credit: They gave Denver a boost on a night when its starters were so so. Morris has become one of the team’s most dependable players. Mason Plumlee is playing with more juice than he ever has in a Nuggets uniform. In the second quarter, Plumlee celebrated a dunk by slapping the backboard before he returned to the ground.

Torrey Craig, who didn’t see the floor Sunday, even got in on the action. He had a block, a 3-pointer and a dunk to start the fourth quarter that put the Nuggets within spitting distance. They got the lead to four but could never get over the hump.

7. One area of Jamal Murray’s game that’s still a work in progress: Beating bigs off the dribble. Murray likes to go to his step-back move when he’s hunting for a bucket. He needs other ways to attack besides that one.

Too often, he takes tough shots when he appears to have an advantage.

8. If you’re a Nuggets fan, you should root against the possibility of a playoff series against the Rockets. The Nuggets are winless in their last eight games against them. Dec. 14, 2015 was the last time Denver beat Houston.

The first order of business is getting to the postseason, of course. But if the Nuggets can avoid the Rockets, they should do so at all costs. Their spread pick and roll spells death for Denver.

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?