“This is a very short taxiway, Mav.” – Rooster
Nikola Jokić – B-
There was a lack of follow-through in Jokić’s game Saturday afternoon. He played great in the second and third quarters but let go of the rope in the fourth. He rebounded well, but not at the elite level required to keep the Knicks off the glass. Sometimes he brought the ball down but didn’t bother to secure it. He played well. He played fine. Fine wasn’t good enough to keep the momentum going in New York. Denver needs more than satisfactory from their best player right now.
Jamal Murray – B
Murray got off to a slow start defensively. So slow that KCP took over the Jalen Brunson assignment. That didn’t quite work either, which we’ll save for later. Brunson was on fire to open the game. But Murray took another step in the right direction on offense. He shot open and early, taking the threes that fell into his lap and taking advantage of the opportunity. Murray shot 5 of 7 from deep en route to a game-high 25 points. Unfortunately, Murray continued to struggle alongside the bench. New York guarded him aggressively in those minutes.
Aaron Gordon – B-
Gordon got a little too fancy on a handful of field goal attempts. We’ll call it exploring his game. But despite some loud mistakes and two missed threes, he scored 14 points on 6 of 12 shooting. He was aggressive in the opening minutes. AG added seven assists to his box score as well. At first glance, the rebounding seems a bit light. In his defense, Julius Randles’s funky shot chart took him all over the floor. His defensive work on Randle was satisfactory, although Brunson snuck past him for a couple of buckets.
Michael Porter Jr. – C+
Porter missed some open looks he’s expected to knock down to open the game. He found a rhythm from deep, ultimately shooting 3 of 7 from beyond the arc, but he left some points on the board all the same. Once again, Porter logged the least amount of time of any starter on the team. Only KCP took fewer shots.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – F
As mentioned, Pope took the Brunson assignment but didn’t shut him down. Brunson eventually cooled off, but not before getting buckets in on everyone who tried to guard him. It wasn’t a highlight-reel game for Denver’s ace defender, who couldn’t buy a bucket on the other end either. Pope shot 0 of 5 from deep and 2 of 7 from the field. In 37:15 on the floor, he scored only four points and recorded two combined rebounds and assists.
Bruce Brown – B+
Brown played a solid game off the bench. He was aggressive, earning a team-high six free throw attempts and crashing the glass as a backup guard. It was also his best defensive performance in some time. We saw Bruce from the start of the season, darting around to plug any holes that spring.
Christian Braun – C
Braun struggled from the field and picked up three fouls from the bench. He even committed a couple of errors on defense. I never thought I’d see the day.
Jeff Green – C+
Green scored well but did not record a single rebound in roughly 19 minutes of playing time.
Thomas Bryant – D+
Bryant also struggled to rebound and shot 2 of 5 from the floor. He looked flustered again in his nine minutes on the floor.