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Jamal Murray – A-
If your kid is a Jamal Murray fan, and you’re considering surprising them with tickets to the game, make sure it’s against the Clippers or the Suns. It doesn’t get more fun watching Murray than against his favorite opponents, two teams that bring the best out of him. The Nuggets were without Nikola Jokić Friday night in LA, but they had all they needed. Murray and Kawhi Leonard led both teams with 24 points and 8 rebounds a piece. It wasn’t utter dominance from the Canadian guard but a display of intense confidence. He was shot ready from deep, eager to let it fly. He finished 4 of 7 from 3-point land.
The Clippers love grueling possessions that end in mid-post jumpers. Several of their scorers are the sturdy, methodical type. That’s fine for Murray, who thrives in those seeming mismatches. That’s not the spot to challenge him, but the Clippers have yet to receive that memo.
Michael Porter Jr. – A-
MPJ is still searching for his three-point shot. The first thing he ever did at a high level is now the aspect of his game we’re waiting for. If he knocked down a few more in LA, he goes for 30. Alas, he shot 2 of 8 from deep. In the meantime, I hope you find solace in how comfortable he looks attacking the rim. He’s dunking again, absorbing contact, and converting circus shots. The pressure on Jamal Murray left Porter as the release valve multiple times. He had to put the ball on the floor, and he had to make quick reads. He did both at a high level. The defense was solid, the handle looked tighter than ever, and he found a way to do damage without his weapon of choice.
I don’t blame any Nuggets fan who considers him unreliable, given his medical history. To doubt MPJ is, of course, rational. But the hypothetical trades are boring me. I’m watching a winning basketball player in Porter. This starting lineup is of championship caliber.
Aaron Gordon – A-
The Clippers have been a good matchup for Denver since game seven of the bubble. And since then, it’s become even better with the addition of Aaron Gordon. Finally, the Nuggets have a good answer to the question of guarding the elite wings in the NBA. It’s been Torrey Craig in the past. Jerami Grant was the guy for a brief tenure. Gordon is their best option in the Jokić era. He did a fine job on Kawhi Leonard, who got his, but never took control of a game the Clippers should have circled on their calendar.
KCP – B+
What’s left to say? He can do no wrong in a Nuggets uniform right now. Kenny Pope and his trusty three-point shot are on the inner circle of trust. Malone would probably let him perform heart surgery at this point. And why not — I bet he’s got steady hands.
DeAndre Jordan – A-
It was a retro night at The DNVR Bar and, apparently, in Los Angeles. The former Lob City Fixture started in the B2B MVP’s stead and played a good game. Jordan dusted off a long-neglected playmaking skillset and even finished some alley-oops. DAJ did his job in the spot start.
Bruce Brown – B
It wasn’t Brown’s night offensively, but goodness gracious, he still made an impact. We need to get a FitBit on this guy at all times. He probably ran a half-marathon against the Clippers. If you blinked last night, you might have missed Brown contesting the shot from a player he wasn’t responsible for. He was flying around.
Bones Hyland – C+
The shots did not fall for Bones this time, but he avoided disaster. He didn’t turn the ball over, dished three assists, and even picked up two steals. There’s a good reason why so few players gamble on defense in the NBA. One missed run at a steal, and you’ve likely conceded a 3 from somewhere on the floor. Still, Hyland’s best tool on defense is his length, and when he’s at his best on that end, he can wreak some havoc in the passing lanes.
Zeke Nnaji – B-
Nnaji took home the coveted DPOG chain after 19 quality minutes off the bench. Obviously, he played well on that end again. This time, however, Nnaji took a step forward in the rebounding department. His hands are still a work in progress, but when he’s tenacious around the rim, he’s effective. So much of the rebounding and finishing is about confidence for him. He played well in LA.
Vlatko Čančar – C+
Čaki was the only Nugget to post a negative number in the +/- column. Still, I love watching him play with the second unit. He makes the cuts and the effort that so few did on the bench to start the season. He’s always active, even on the nights he’s relatively ineffective.