Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate PHNX Sports Community!

Nikola Jokić Leads the Shorthanded Nuggets to a Landslide Victory

Brendan Vogt Avatar
March 26, 2024

Nikola Jokić: A+

Nikola Jokić matched up with Jaren Jackson Jr., the reigning defensive player of the year. Neither big had their star point guards by their side, but that did not faze the two-time MVP. Jokić was just too strong for the PF/C hybrid.

The game looked easy for Jokić, but he wasn’t coasting. He looked engaged as his teammates enjoyed elevated roles, working hard to help them take advantage of the opportunity. Michael Malone was fired up about the win and Jokić’s approach.

Michael Porter Jr. – A-

The Grizzlies assigned the smaller but stout Desmond Bane to Michael Porter. That strategy no longer works unless it’s Derrick White. When will that guy be a Nugget? I digress. Porter was active in the first quarter, putting up five points, three boards, two assists, and one steal. He started to catch fire in the second before suddenly his services weren’t needed. The Nuggets’ effort was balanced and complete. Everyone who played contributed, and Porter got comfortable in the backseat. He logged just 22 minutes in the win.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – A-

While Bane struggled with Porter, he also struggled with KCP and Christian Braun on the other end of the floor. Pope forced two turnovers while guarding Bane in the first two minutes. After the game, Michael Malone lauded Pope’s toughness and professionalism. KCP’s work rate is off the charts.

Christian Braun – A+

Braun played this game as if the result could undo the Kansas loss in the NCAA tournament. After losing a bet, he rolled up to Ball Arena wearing Julian Strawther’s Gonzaga jersey from the Final Four. It must have been humiliating. The good news is he restored his dignity on the floor.

Braun shined in the spot start, playing alongside Reggie Jackson, KCP, MPJ, and Jokić. We often associate Braun with some of the dirty work essential to winning. This performance was about his scoring and confidence. Braun shot ten times, which was the third-highest total on the team. He knocked down eight of them. His back-to-back buckets forced a timeout from Memphis on two different occasions. Memphis ran out of timeouts before the third quarter expired.

Reggie Jackson – A-

Reggie Jackson did it again. He played winning basketball while filling in for Jamal Murray, which is what Jackson brings to the defending champions. Although he has struggled mightily throughout the season, particularly alongside Murray, Denver can survive his poor performances when healthy. He’s played best when they’ve needed him most, which counts for something.

Collin Gillespie – A-

It remains to be seen if Gillespie belongs in the NBA when teams are at full strength. But we’ve already seen that he belongs when both teams utilize the end of their bench. Gillespie is too good at basketball for the G League and other arenas. He dropped dimes in Denver, finishing with seven assists in 21 minutes against the Grizzlies. He also rebounded well off the bench. This performance felt less tethered to Jokić’s greatness than some of his others. Gillespie put his fingerprints on the win.

Justin Holiday – A

The Nuggets cruised with Holiday on the floor, which was no coincidence. The small forward contributed a bit of everything, knocking down his 3s, grabbing a few rebounds, keeping the ball moving, and even recording a couple of steals. The bench played great basketball.

Peyton Watson – A

You may remember Michael Malone’s comment about the playoff rotation following the win in Portland. He said he was still determining who would play off the bench alongside Reggie Jackson and Christian Braun. That was likely a motivational tactic for Peyton Watson, who is all but guaranteed to make an appearance in the postseason. It worked.

Watson seemed to record the first double-double of his career against the Grizzlies, but a morning review of the box score reveals they took a rebound from him. Nevertheless, Watson posted 10 points, nine rebounds, and four combined blocks and steals, three of which were blocks. Malone was emphatic and precise in his praise. That’s what he wanted to see.

Julian Strawther – A-

Strawther returned to action and didn’t miss a beat. He scored seven points in his first five minutes, and the Nuggets even drew some plays for him in the win. After the game, Malone praised Strawther for his readiness, citing his embrace of the G League stints. Strawther echoed the sentiment, reiterating that he’s patient. “I waited my turn, and it worked out for me at Gonzaga,” he said. He has no qualms about doing the same for the defending champions.

DeAndre Jordan – A-

Jordan finished scoreless but gave the Nuggets good minutes off the bench. Denver did a great job with JJJ, seemingly conceding open threes. They prioritized protecting the paint against easy buckets. When Jackson did take the action down low, it looked rushed and uncomfortable. Jordan blocked him twice.


Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

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