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Denver Nuggets: Mining the gold from the golden state

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Preseason? Sure. But the Nuggets come back from their first three preseason games in California with a golden goose egg in the loss column.

NBA: Preseason-Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers
I said, “kiss off the GLASS...”. Emmanuel Mudiay doesn’t back down against Briante Weber.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After three games, your Denver Nuggets won’t back down... (thanks, Gordon. Thanks even more, Mr. Petty...)

There are bigger and better places to crow about taking out the broom on an NBA road trip than the opening three games of your preseason, (especially when the third game starters weren’t either team’s starters) but your Denver Nuggets come home from a gold rush in the golden state, having taken two from the Los Angeles Lakers in the last three days, and having snagged a win against the champion Golden State Warriors in the preseason opener. Here’s a few things that went right in the last 120 hours.

First Half Heat

The Nuggets led at the half in all three games, with none more pronounced than their 22-point lead midway through last night’s contest. Denver got off to some notoriously cold starts last year, and looked to be off to the same against Golden State before quickly jumping out of their doldrums. If the Nugs can keep this habit alive through the regular season, they stand a great chance of making the playoffs this year.

On Guard

The backcourt kids took their turns in these games making an impact, with Emmanuel Mudiay shining against Golden State, Gary Harris going off against the Lakers in the middle contest, and Jamal Murray taking his turn in the capper last night. Should those three be able to make a splash throughout the season, Denver has a backcourt to contend with in a Western Conference filled with dangerous guards.

PFM

Paul Millsap has played the game that made him an All Star and defensive stud in the two games he saw the floor. Adam Mares had a great article today capturing the news that NBA GMs had rated the Nuggets pickup of Millsap as the most underrated of the offseason. Millsap didn’t disappoint, with a double double against the Warriors and another 11 points in a short night against the Lakers. Though Millsap and Nikola Jokic haven’t quite found their rhythm yet, the similarities in their games bode well for what’s coming as they work it out.

Did Denver Do D?

No really... Don’t look now, but it would appear as if your Denver Nuggets are committed to playing some defense this year. Was it stellar D that held the Warriors to such poor shooting? Not entirely, but Denver still gave great effort, and was at least partially responsible for the Golden State funk. Even more exciting, the defensive concept also seems to (primarily) be working in concert, with players rotating and covering more quickly and enthusiastically than most of last season, and could be a huge component in how successful a campaign we see this year.

The Joker is no joke

No surprises here, but Nikola Jokic looks to have upped his game even further this season, even with a couple of semi-quiet games in the first two contests, (12 and 16 points, respectively) but was everywhere on the court, often steering the squad. As mentioned above, Jokic and Millsap have some figuring and configuring to do, but Nikola still looks razor sharp in his passing, his defense looks improved, and though he’s not the chiseled granite we were all hoping he might return as, he looks to have slimmed down from last season’s entrance. If Jokic can find ways to maintain his best game for an even larger part of the games and the season, it should be one of the largest keys to Denver’s success this upcoming year.

Two more preseason games to come, Nuggets Nation, but there are a few patterns starting to unfold. What has impressed you in these early contests? What’s worrying you? Show me what you got!

Poll

A 3-0 Nuggets preseason is:

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    An exciting start. Looks like good things coming this season.
    (194 votes)
  • 46%
    Fun, but not meaningful just yet.
    (241 votes)
  • 15%
    Nothing yet. It’s just preseason basketball.
    (81 votes)
  • 0%
    Will tell you more below.
    (2 votes)
518 votes total Vote Now