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Nikola Jokić Puts the Denver Nuggets Back on Track

Brendan Vogt Avatar
April 1, 2024

Nikola Jokić – A+

Nikola Jokić has a nagging wrist injury. It’s vague, impossible to ignore, and, most interestingly, not much of a hindrance during one of the most incredible runs in NBA history. The wrist becomes a talking point during any sign of a personal slump or team failure. And that’s reasonable, given that the discomfort is confirmed. Jokić admits it’s an ongoing issue. Still, he maintains he can play through it, and that’s hard to dispute. Without fail, he eventually unwraps his shooting hand and puts the concerns to rest with a masterpiece. The Cleveland Cavaliers were on the wrong end of some unfortunate timing.

Jokić dominated an elite defense featuring two defensively inclined bigs. He moved mountains in the paint, dazzled with a spectacular array of passes, and punished the Cavs for daring to play Tristan Thomson. When the dust settled, Denver’s behemoth stood tall amongst the carnage. He finished with 26 points, 18 rebounds, and 16 assists. He’s the first player to do that since Oscar Robertson.

Michael Porter Jr. – B+

The Cavs jumped out to an 11-6 start thanks to eight quick points in the paint. It didn’t help that Porter fell asleep while Max Strus cut to the rim. Michael Malone called a timeout, and Porter responded with three straight buckets. That did help.

Denver’s defense roared to life, and the offense hummed as Jokić found eager shooters. Porter certainly fits into that category. He took 16 shots in under 29 minutes and knocked down half of them. He shot 3/5 from deep and finished with 19 points.

Aaron Gordon – C+

The starters cruised, but Gordon’s turned in better minutes in his Nuggets tenure. Evan Mobley isn’t an easy assignment, and he did some of his damage against the bench. Still, he was AG’s primary assignment and Cleveland’s highest scorer with 23 points on 9/10 shooting.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – A+

Pope turned in an A+ 3-and-D effort against Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers. Thanks to KCP and the guys off the bench, Cleveland’s guards struggled mightily in their loss. Meanwhile, KCP knocked down six of his nine three-point attempts. He was Denver’s second-highest scorer with 22 points and remarkable efficiency. His performance was virtually flawless.

Reggie Jackson: B+

It was raining 3s in Denver. Jackson shot 5/5 from deep and scored 19 points as he started again in place of the injured Jamal Murray. Jackson struggled defensively, but the stagger with Christian Braun worked out nicely, given Braun’s well-established prowess. Denver didn’t play a backup point guard until garbage time. Of course, it all fits together neatly when the shots are falling. Every choice looks brilliant in the shine of a blowout victory.

Christian Braun – A

The Nuggets needed a little boost off the bench. Christian Braun checked in and brought the fire. It started on defense, where he helped the starters flip a switch. Then he sparked a run in the second quarter, scoring 7 points in two minutes. He ran down the floor and screamed at a raucous crowd when the Cavs asked for a timeout. It reminded me an awful lot of Bruce Brown from last season.

Peyton Watson – B

Jokić’s gravity is immense, and Watson was happy to operate in his orbit. He put together a flurry of effective cuts to the rim, adding another monster block and devastating dunk to his two-way highlight reel. Watson had a bumpy takeoff, but he was soaring through the air before long.

Justin Holiday – C+

Holiday clocked in on Easter Sunday with a dutiful performance and a slick suit. Reggie Jackson made sure we saw the suit after the game. He was fired up about it.


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