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Nikola Jokić – B-
The Kings hammered Jokić inside. They sought and received the officiating crew’s blessing for a physical effort. The Jokić whistle, or lack thereof, was maddening. But that’s the case virtually every time he laces them up. Win or lose. Denver had more significant problems, like missing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr., and their typical focus on offense.
Jokić was the best Nugget on the floor, but without his best shooters alongside him and amidst a flood of turnovers from his teammates, Domantas Sabonis held the edge this time. We all know the context of this blowout. Still, the bottom line is it was a subpar effort from the best player alive.
Jamal Murray – D
Murray couldn’t carry the momentum forward from his excellent performance in Los Angeles. He was the biggest culprit in the turnover department, finishing with six while only recording three assists. He looked exhausted quickly and couldn’t find a way to make a positive impact. He didn’t score, rebound, or defend well, either.
Aaron Gordon – C
Gordon posted 14 points on 5/8 shooting and played a significant role in Denver’s early lead. But he also struggled on the glass, turned it over twice, and Denver got crunched while he was on the floor. His production dried up at halftime.
Peyton Watson – D+
Watson caught the spot start, thrusting his propensity for cluster-fouling into the spotlight. Denver needed him on the floor. Unfortunately, the foul trouble reared its ugly head in the first half. It’s a symptom of something one can appreciate about the prospect. He knows he’s a defensive game-changer and tries to make plays. He made some spectacular ones in Sacramento, but like most young players, Watson is prone to pressing the issue. That’s the next hurdle for him to clear in his nascent career. He also committed four turnovers, including three in the first half. His brutal turnover at the end of the first quarter was the beginning of the end for the Nuggets.
This is Denver’s true gamble. The depth is not much worse than last season’s. Rolling 6-7 deep is fine when your starters are arguably the best in the league. The risk is that their sixth-best player is a young blue chip and not a veteran this time.
Justin Holiday – D+
Justin Holiday took nine threes and ten shots in his spot start. That might be all one needs to summarize the game for Denver. You’re probably not winning a game like that unless he shoots the lights out. And the lights stayed on.
Christian Braun – C+
Braun had some nice moments off the bench. He led the Nuggets’ second unit in scoring with an efficient 14 points. He grabbed a couple of offensive rebounds and blocked a shot. Malone’s conversation with Braun appears to be going a long way. The approach is recalibrated. He’s trending up — the ugly loss notwithstanding.
Reggie Jackson – C
Jackson played with an uncontained chaos in Sacramento. He hit 3/5 shots, but that included a couple of wild attempts. He shot one with his left hand. He also turned it over four times.
Julian Strawther – D+
Strawther returned to NBA action as Malone called reinforcements for the shorthanded effort. Strawther looked a lot like his rookie returning from an extended absence. He shot 3/8, 1/5 from deep, missed the rim with a floater, and turned it over twice.
DeAndre Jordan – F
Jordan logged roughly six minutes in the first half. He rebounded well, but the minutes were disastrous. Malone went to the hook and tried Zeke Nnaji instead.
Zeke Nnaji – D
The quick hook for Jordan and extended garbage time meant an extended run for Nnaji. It did not turn into a feel-good story.