The Denver Nuggets lost a game of basketball to the Los Angeles Lakers, a dumpster fire of a team who had yet to register a win before the contest. Is the sky falling and is it time to panic for the Nuggets? Not at all.
Denver’s starting unit played exceptional basketball at the Crypto.com Arena (I won’t get used to writing that) with all but Nikola Jokic registering a positive plus-minus in a game the Lakers won by 11 points.
Jamal Murray had some flashes of brilliance and despite shooting the ball poorly overall, had 21 points with five assists and only one turnover. Jamal was a plus-13 on the night, second only to Aaron Gordon for the Nuggets as the starters vastly outplayed Los Angeles’.
Additionally, Bones Hyland missed this contest after suffering a hip injury before tip-off. Ish Smith, his immediate replacement, missed the second half of the game after straining his calf. Playmaking was hard to come by in this contest.
While Bruce Brown has flashed brilliance as a backup playmaker, he wasn’t able to get anything working tonight as the bench just stood still for multiple possessions at a time. Brown was a negative 28 in his 28 minutes tonight and Michael Malone even gave the ball to Jeff Green at the elbow in a desperate attempt to get the offense moving.
After stringing together some impressive performances, DeAndre Jordan tallied five points and six rebounds against Los Angeles, and while his interior defense was solid, his lack of offensive pop cramped the second unit’s spacing. This has been on display for the past few games but without Bones stretching the defense out, it was much more prevalent.
The second unit didn’t have a creator or play initiator on the floor, there’s not much to expect.
But hold on, that’s a long list of negatives, why shouldn’t the Denver Nuggets panic?
It’s impossible to judge this Nuggets team right now as they try and find their footing following their rough injury luck. Michael Porter Jr. is shooting the lights out but he missed Denver’s last contest while resting his back. Murray had some flashes, but they were flashes amongst a long reel of lowlights and failures to create efficient looks at the basket.
Nikola Jokic finally hit a 3-pointer after missing his past nine and like the team’s last win against the Lakers, he excelled in the paint and bossed Anthony Davis around.
Jokic has looked less assertive this season and it makes sense as he tries to get the returning stars involved in the game. It’s crazy how accustomed we are to excellence from the Serbian MVP because a “quiet” game by his standards, like tonight, tallied 23 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists with only two turnovers.
Aaron Gordon has continued an early-season trend of showing aggression to get his shot off. He scored 18 points tonight on 7-11 shooting with three 3-pointers including some tough looks over a defender. Denver doesn’t need AG to score this much but it’s a sign of healthy offense, a sign that the play finisher is getting easy looks.
The Denver Nuggets are 4-3 on the season and while MPJ looks incredible, it’s important to note that this roster won’t be its full self until halfway through the season. Malone needs to figure out who he trusts coming off the bench, who slides in with the starters, and how to inject some offense into this second unit.
The Nuggets lost to the worst team in basketball but it’s not time to panic, it’s time to wait and see how they can continue to grow.