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The Denver Nuggets share the Big O

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The Big O is humming. How soon do we need to worry about our little d?

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets offense has Nuggets Nation all tingly
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

"Our offense will come from our defense. Guys can get out and run, but that should come from our defense."

"We will defend, rebound, and run at high rate."

-Michael Malone’s introductory press conference with the Denver Nuggets

Maybe someday, coach... maybe someday... Right now, the Nuggets defense is still spelling itself in lower case, while the OFFENSE is fairly screaming in all caps.

In their last three games, the Denver Nuggets have:

Our defensive coach has an Offensive juggernaut on his hands, though this low-game sample ran against the likes of the 16th-, 21st, and 30th-ranked teams in defensive efficiency. (and that in the order they were played, the Pacers, Magic, and Lakers) Denver, by the by, is 28th on that same defensive list.

And though a lot of that efficiency seems to run through the distribution whisperer that is Nikola Jokic, the rest of the squad have joyfully followed suit. Jokic contributed seven of the team’s 37 assists against Indiana, five of the 33 against Orlando, and one of the 29 they had against Los Angeles. (though I’ll join the fray calling for that fourth quarter tip to Wilson Chandler to have made it two-of-30)

What’s most impressive about the Nuggets newfound enthusiasm for assists is that it translates to several versions of an offensive game. Want to run the floor? Denver has the horses to outrun most teams in the league, and know that their home court altitude advantage always tires the other guy more in a four-quarter sprint. With good passing and willing sharing in the mix, Denver is fun to watch on the run, unless you’re the other team. Then they’re just impossible to keep up with, so you’d better get back if you’re fast, or cheat back if you’re not.

Rather play the half court? With Jokic at the top of the key, there are four cutters headed to the basket at any moment. But under the hoop need not be empty. Any one of the frontcourt starters in the Joker, Kenneth Faried, or Danilo Gallinari plays well under the basket in the right situation, and passes well under the hoop. Big Stiff Adam Mares had a stellar look at Faried’s offensive game (particularly all along the short corner) in yesterday’s article and how the current starting roster plays to the Manimal’s offensive strengths.

Any number of the cutting backcourt quartet of Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Jamal Murray benefit from the shared distribution load with Jokic, with Mudiay in particular having what may be his strongest trio of games in a Nuggets uniform. Over the last three games, Mudiay has had 26 assists, including a 13-dime night against Orlando.

The starting four of Jokic, Faried, Gallinari, and Mudiay, along with either Gary Harris or Will Barton have proven to be a scoring force, with the Barton quintet going for 103 against the Lakers, 94 against the Magic (Barton replaced an injured Gary Harris a couple minutes into the game), and 86 versus the Pacers with Harris. A juiced-up offense. Here were the characters behind 55 of those 103 on Tuesday night, courtesy of BBallBreakdown and DownToBuck:

But it’s just three games. How real/sustainable is the offense of the last 144 minutes? Denver will find out a lot more in a litmus-test-style game against the fourth-ranked defense in the league at San Antonio tonight. The Spurs bring pressure to bear on both ends of the floor. The Nuggets will need to bear down on both ends to make it a game. How do you think the offense will fare against a disciplined D? Is our "O" big enough just yet?