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Jamal Murray – A+
Murray put his fingerprints all over an encouraging basketball game. Denver stayed true to their brand of basketball, even without Nikola Jokić, and Murray turned in one of his best performances of the season. Indiana dared someone else to beat them. They pressure Murray up the court. They sent help. They sent various looks with the hope he’d get off the ball. He obliged, to the tune of 14 assists. Denver set their single-game season-high with 38 assists on that night. The ball was popping.
Murray recorded his first career triple-double in the blowout. He doesn’t play to rack those up, but he conceded that accomplishing something he had yet to pre-injury boosted his confidence. Acting head coach David Adelman praised Murray for taking what the defense gave him.
Aaron Gordon – A+
AG came ready to play. He led all scorers with 28, but that’s not what he was proud of after the game. He told the media he enjoyed facilitating and watching his teammates do their thing. He listed virtually all of them and their contributions.
Even without Jokic, with 28 points, Gordon insisted he’s only ever doing what the team asks of him. That steadfast approach has turned him into one of the most improved players in the league. Gordon’s evolved from an enigma to an efficiency machine.
Michael Porter Jr. – B+
Porter was the lone Nugget not to record an assist, yet it would be inaccurate to say he played disconnected basketball. Porter actually moved the ball well. But when he looks at the rim, we know he’s not creating for others. He’s a finisher, and he did that well alongside Murray. The two flashed some two-man game—a rare treat—thanks to Porter’s off-ball activity and timely relocations.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – C+
Pope got bit by the turnover bug. He recorded three in his roughly 26 minutes played. But, of course, he posted three steals as well. He also sold some important calls. Pope stays attached to the hip and sells contact like Dolph Ziggler. It’s incredible to watch. Now that we’re on the subject, he might enjoy a cameo at a match. ‘Kenny Pope’ is a good stage name too. Let’s go ahead and make it happen.
Zeke Nnaji – C+
Nnaji caught the spot start and gave up some size to Myles Turner. Adelman knew that would be the case and could result in some two-point scoring from him—but it’s outside Indiana’s preferred play style, he noted. It was something he was ultimately willing to concede so long as the shots were contested. He felt they were. “Zeke did his job,” said Adelman. Nnaji earned the coveted DPOG chain as well.
Bruce Brown – A
Brown was an absolute menace out there. He’s one of those players that approaches a 30-point lead and deficit the same way—full steam ahead. He wrought havoc on Indy’s second unit and played a starring role in the dunk fest that broke out in Ball Arena.
Jeff Green – C+
The Dunkin’ Uncle shot out of a cannon onto the court and immediately flashed his remarkable athleticism. Denver’s second unit ran a lot Friday night, and a fresh Green flew up and down the court. He settled into fewer active minutes as the game rolled on, but he provided a nice burst of energy in his first stint.
DeAndre Jordan – C+
Before you freak out at me, consider his opening stint was his worst. He got off to a frighteningly poor start, yes, but DAJ made a positive impact before it was all said and done.
Christian Braun – B+
Braun didn’t play in the first half, but that didn’t slow him down once he finally took the court. It’s not easy to sit that long and jump right into the flow of a game. Braun doesn’t need much warming up, though. Just point and let him go. He’s ready to run. The rookie played one of his best games of the season.
Bones Hyland – Left Early
Hyland left the game early again. This time for a sprained left finger. Adelman adjusted nicely on the fly.
Denver Nuggets – A+
The Nuggets posted 134 points in regulation thanks to a season-high 38 assists and 16 steals. They pushed their winning streak to nine games—the most in the Jokić era. They did it all without the back-to-back MVP and their head coach. They’ve now won three straight without 15.