By now, we all know that the Nuggets are facing some dark times as they work around injuries to their two best players, Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic. Their offense simply doesn’t move the way it should without Jokic both in the game and at the center of moving the ball, and without Millsap, the Nuggets are completely lost on defense resulting in multiple blowout losses as of late.
Despite the somewhat bleak outlook, the Nuggets executed some pretty impressive plays this past week. So let’s all quit crying in our Cheerios for a moment and take a look at some of their top plays.
Emmanuel Mudiay’s value as a player is a controversial topic, but one thing is certain—he’s made some major improvements in his game this season. I’ve been known to be one of Mudiay’s biggest critics, but I have to give him credit for putting in some obvious hard work.
Perhaps it’s all that time on the court with Jokic, but Mudiay’s no-look pass to Trey Lyles for the three against the Lakers was simply beautiful. Lyles has seen more minutes as the Nuggets work compensate for injuries, and he’s showing to be a valuable scoring presence while also putting in some work on defense with a few rebounds per game. At just 22 years old, Lyles already looks to be a promising player off-the-bench for the Nuggets.
Gary Harris also showcased his skills against the Lakers with an impressive 360 lay up. Harris is known for fancy reverse lay-ins that fool his defenders nearly every time, but he decided to put a spin on this play—quite literally. Harris put up 13 points, 6 assists, and 2 rebounds at an abysmal 33% from the field and 12.5% from three against the Lakers which is actually a terrible game for the Nuggets’ starting shooting guard. Harris is typically known for consistency so we will overlook this line since he made pretty much every highlight reel of the night.
DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans had his way with the Nuggets on Wednesday scoring 40 points, and bringing in 22 rebounds. Kenneth Faried did his best to defend under the rim, but Boogie enforced his will at every turn.
Even though Faried was dominated on defense, he managed to pull off some impressive wide-open dunks that kept the game entertaining. He saw the prime opportunity, signaling to Mudiay to throw him the lob finishing with just one hand. Overall, Faried contributed just 6 points, and 5 rebounds in his 23 minutes on the floor so the Nuggets will need more from him in Millsap’s absence.
Last, but not least, Malik Beasley also saw some action this week against the Pelicans. With Jamal Murray taking charge and Mudiay showing a little more promise, Beasley hasn’t played much, but whenever he’s on the court he puts in 100%. What I like most about Beasley is that he shows little fear and marches right into tricky situations with complete confidence in his abilities. In this play, it worked, and Beasley got an easy lay in with an extra shot.
The Nuggets can’t ask too much more from their guards on the offensive end, but without any defense, all their effort will be for naught.
Unfortunately, the Nuggets have shown that they just aren’t closers so while they’ve won some nail biters in recent games, they can’t be counted on to win close games on the regular. They’re the type of team that needs to set up for a win from the start, and without Millsap and Jokic, that will be a very tall order. I expect we will see some fade in the Nuggets’ Western Conference rankings, and with Millsap out all the way until the All-Star Break at the earliest (according to Coach Mike Malone), it may be too late for them to make a comeback.