Nikola Jokic pushed the Denver Nuggets to a victory with a monstrous offensive performance in a well rounded game for the team.
‘Twas a satisfying victory on Serbian Christmas. After a bad loss, the Denver Nuggets ignited an offensive onslaught, led by none other, than Nikola Jokic.
Nikola Jokic took command of the game early on posting 18 points in the first quarter when virtually no other offensive players were contributing at the time. He ended the game with 47 points on 25 shots. He flaunted an unused skill that he possesses by drawing 16 free throws and making 11 of them.
Aside from Nikola Jokic, the best player for Denver in this contest was undoubtedly Will Barton. He and Jokic combined for 75 points. Barton added nine rebounds and five assists to his 28 points.
Paul Millsap and Gary Harris both struggled recently and tonight was no exception. Millsap recorded two points in 24 minutes, and both were off of free throws. Gary Harris also only put up four points in 36 minutes, missing all six of his three-point shots on decent looks. Both of these players are the backbone of the defense as well. With them hurting, the defense has certainly slipped.
Before the game, I discussed containing Trae Young. The Nuggets did this in a limited amount. Jamal Murray started as the primary defender on Trae, and sent randomly timed double teams at him quite often. Young was still efficient tonight, but only got up 12 shots. The scheme mostly worked as a deterrent than as a shot defense. Again, Trae is an excellent playmaker and he did end up with 12 assists. Kevin Huerter specifically benefitted tremendously, going 6-8 from three, often on the receiving end of Trae’s passes.
The excellent shooting of both of these guards are what kept the Hawks in the game for so long, as they combined for 10 made shots from beyond the arc, which was more than Denver had as a team. The Hawks took 45% of their shots from three (compared to Denver’s 27%), and made 45.9% of them, which is an excellent mark (per Cleaning the Glass). Denver was certainly the better team, but the shooting difference kept the game within reach for a large part of the end of the game.
Obviously, we have to discuss Michael Porter Jr.
Porter did not fill the stat sheet at all, but his impact was felt. He finished with a team high plus-minus of +17. His strength in rebounding is one of the most apparent features of his game. He’s certainly show with plays and positioning, but he has a nose for getting the ball in the hoop and recovering it when shots are missed, especially on the offensive glass.
This was a well-played game as a whole by Denver. It was an adequate response to the Washington game and a positive momentum builder into the Dallas Mavericks game. Hopefully the Nuggets do not have to rely on Jokic’s scoring as much in the next game, but his aggressiveness was welcome and beneficial.