The Denver Nuggets held practice this morning before catching a flight to Portland for the first of a two-game road trip. The team is entering the home stretch of the preseason and a few things are beginning to come into focus, most notably the starting lineup. The team has started Nikola Jokic alongside Jusuf Nurkic for all of the games that both players were available and so far, the results have been pretty positive, no more so than last night’s game against the Warriors where the “Balkan Buddy Ball” lineup outscored the Warriors infamous “Death” lineup late in the 2nd quarter.
At practice I asked Malone if last night’s game had given him even more confidence that the two-center approach was the right one for the Nuggets. He had this to say:
“I’ll be honest, it does. Obviously we like that lineup, we’ve been going to it. And every game that we’ve started that lineup we’ve gotten off to good starts. And we liked what we saw last year in a short window. But the real test was the end of that half, when they went to a small lineup and we stayed big. The fact that we outscored them 13-6, and the fact that we were able to hurt them in the post, hurt them on the glass, and not get exploited that much on defense. You know, we put Nikola Jokic on (Andre) Iguodala, we had Gallo guard Kevin Durant, and let Nurk guard Draymond (Green).
I’m not foolish enough to say we figured it out and that’s going to happene very time...but I give our guys credit. It does give me confidence moving forward that just because somebody changes their lineup, we don’t have to... okay make them match to us sometimes.”
On the Nuggets rebounding advantage against every team
“Whether we go Jokic, Nurkic, and Gallo, or Wilson...our front line is crushing the glass. And most importantly, we have guards that have been rebounding. I mean Jamal Murray gets five in one game, gets seven in another game.”
It really seems like Malone already believed in the “Jurkic” lineup but after last night’s game, he’s fully sold that this is the direction the team should be going. He did go on to say that he is not sure at this moment what the front court rotation will look like behind those two, especially when Darrell Arthur returns, but he seems to be pretty confident that Jokic and Nurkic together is going to be a big part of the team’s identity this year.