A slow start for the Denver Nuggets results in an offensive surge from the bench, especially Michael Porter Jr, who excelled in an expanded role.
There’s only one thing that stands out in this game above the rest, but there’s a few things that need to be highlighted.
The offense started very slow. The starting unit had a difficult time getting in rhythm and ended up down by 10 to end the first quarter.
The bench unit was inserted and held their own, limiting Indiana’s bench, as well as effectively scoring themselves. Malone ran with a 9-man rotation tonight, with Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, Michael Porter Jr, and Jerami Grant. This unit essentially pulled Denver back into the game, bringing the score back to within two at the half.
This season has usually been the other way around, but it was encouraging to see the bench play a critical role in the Denver Nuggets coming back from an early deficit.
The x-factor tonight was obvious, as the catalyst for the effectiveness of the bench was undoubtedly Michael Porter Jr.
For a bench unit that has struggled with both spacing and defense, Porter helped in both areas, showcasing defensive aggression and lateral speed at times. Porter also hit 11 of his 12 shots, including two of his three attempted threes.
Even his missed shot wasn’t a lost possession, as Plumlee came down with the offensive rebound, tapped it out to Porter, for him to drain a midrange jumper with it just moments later. The variety and skill of his made shots were incredible, a couple contested dunks, as well as a crafty reverse layup were a couple notable makes of his.
This game may have proven the offensive value that Michael Porter brings to the bench unit. His minutes are certainly going to expand soon, as he absolutely maximized his 23 minutes on the court.
He may have even given himself more of a chance to crack the playoff rotation, between this game, and his first breakout game against the Sacramento Kings. If he can continue to not be a negative asset on defense, then his innate ability to score will manifest itself on the bench quite successfully.
Nikola Jokic posted a team-worst -9 in this contest, but the eye test didn’t matchup, as he scored effectively and efficiently. 22 points on 24 minutes on 15 shots taken. He got into foul trouble early which limited his role in the first half.
The Nuggets as a whole struggled from the three point line, shooting 29.6% from the arc, while allowing Indiana to shoot 46.2% from deep. The Nuggets adjusted early to attack the rim often during their successful runs later in the game.
Another indicator of the defensive struggles of the starting unit is the scoring numbers of Indiana’s starters. Everyone outside of Aaron Holiday had at least 18 points, and 30 coming from Jeremy Lamb. The bench did not fare the same, with a combined 21 points between the four bench players that Nate McMillan utilized.
The script was flipped tonight, as the bench unit bails out the struggling starters. The offensive charge was led by Michael Porter Jr.
The bench unit thriving tonight is an excellent sign. All we need now is to see both units click in the same game. It was also beneficial to see the potential of what the future can hold, and what Michael Porter can do for this the Denver Nuggets in the future.