1 star returns to lineup, 2 others sit out as Nuggets extend Western Conference lead

Mar 3, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15), guard Jamal Murray (27), and forward Aaron Gordon (50)
Mar 3, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15), guard Jamal Murray (27), and forward Aaron Gordon (50) / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After Saturday night’s win in Portland, there was some question as to the health of the Denver Nuggets’ star players. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray both missed the game but the team was still able to beat an extremely shorthanded Blazers team.

Murray had left the previous game with an ankle injury, so it seemed there was some legitimate concern. Jokic’s ailments seemed more to do with soreness and the absence could easily be chalked up to extra rest against a lesser opponent.

Jokic back in action

Sure enough, Jokic was back on the court Monday night, looking every bit his MVP self and leading the Nuggets to another win, this time at home over the Grizzlies 128-103. Big Honey played just 31 minutes but managed to put up 29 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals. He was able to sit the entire 4th quarter while the bench salted away a blowout win.

Murray remains out

But Murray did not return to the lineup and missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle. There is still not a lot to be worried about, and the Nuggets should play it safe and exercise caution with their stars.

The one seed would be nice, but Denver doesn’t have to beat themselves up to get it. If one of their stars is even slightly less than 100%, they shouldn’t be out there. This team’s chances would take a drastic hit if Murray were to miss time in the playoffs, so trotting him out for regular season games in March with a balky ankle would make zero sense.

Gordon gets a night off

Another Nuggets co-star was missing in action Monday night, as Aaron Gordon got the night off with a fascia strain. This is likely more along the lines of the Jokic load management plan. The team saw an opportunity to get some extra rest for a key player against an inferior opponent at home and they took it.

The Nuggets were still able to win the game comfortably even without two starters, and they improved to 51-21, and they now have a full-game lead in the standings over the Thunder for the top seed in the Western Conference. For the moment, there is no reason for concern whatsoever.