The Denver Nuggets were handed their first loss of the season on Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers as LeBron James led his team to a win late in the game. While there were some awkward moments, the Nuggets did a fair job of competing with LA the entire game, but King James knows how to close and that’s just what he did against Denver.
Watching the Nuggets’ winning streak come to an end isn’t very fun, but I am actually glad to see it happen early on so that the pressure of said streak doesn’t add tension as the offense works to sort itself out.
Back on the regular schedule, here is a recap of the highlights of the last few days.
Jokic with SIX turnovers
Looking at the numbers, you could say that Jokic had a great game against the Lakers with 24 points and 11 rebounds, but those stats only tell part of the story. While Jokic made a solid contribution on offense, and a huge impact under the rim, overall he was fairly ineffective last night.
Six turnovers in a single game is unacceptable from any player, especially the Nuggets’ star. Six turnovers creates an opportunity for at least 12 points, and the Nuggets lost by just 7. Now, I’m not suggesting that the Nuggets lost only because Jokic turned the ball over—a loss can never be attributed to just one thing. However, limiting turnovers to one or two could have put Denver in a better position to close out the game. Jokic doesn’t do this on the regular, so what happened last night?
My opinion is that this situation was primarily caused by some offensive kinks he and Millsap need to work out as they learn to share the court. These kinks haven’t been as exaggerated because the Nuggets haven’t yet faced the type of defensive pressure that the Lakers put on them last night. What makes Jokic so incredibly effective is his ability to facilitate, and with Millsap on the court, the spacing is awkward which is stifling for Jokic’s offensive magic.
I don’t think Millsap should be bumped because I firmly believe his presence on the court provides irreplaceable defensive focus, but the problem remains and will need to be corrected if the Nuggets want to be able to beat good defensive teams throughout the season.
Defense saved the day - again
Although Thursday’s game held many opportunities for improvement, it was the Nuggets’ defense that allowed them to stay in the game and avoid getting blown out. The Lakers’ offense also struggled to gain its footing until the end, and I believe that can be attributed to the Nuggets playing solid D.
Trey Lyles was able to defend James fairly well which says a lot considering he doesn’t play a ton of minutes, and well, James is pretty tough to guard.
Overall, I’m happy to see Denver starting to rely on defense when things get sticky. This gives me hope that it’s becoming a much more comfortable part of their game vs something they have to stretch for. If they can continue to hone this skill set, they’ll be unstoppable once their offense starts to click.
Barkley said Denver is the 2nd best team in the West
That’s right. In case you missed it, Charles Barkley said live on TNT that he believes the Nuggets are the 2nd best team in the West right now. The poll was then put out to the Twitter-verse to ask if they agreed, and a resounding 73% said NO.
But, who cares what Twitter thinks anyway?
One of my favorite things is to be underestimated in business. As a female in a male-dominated industry, it happens to me all the time. Fortunately, it doesn’t offend me anymore. I’ve actually grown to love it because being underestimated has absolutely no impact on the value that I provide. When my competition sizes me up and deems me less-than, it’s my opportunity to strike and get a win.
I see it the same way for the Nuggets. While the nay-sayers are busy focusing on the more popular teams in the West, the Nuggets can continue to quietly capitalize on the undervalue they receive and win games when other teams let their guard down. As I’ve been saying all along, ONE game can make or break a playoff appearance so the Nuggets should ride the wave of negativity all the way to greatness.
You’ve all read my diatribes about how a win ALWAYS matters, and it does. However, in this case I believe this loss is very important as it will help the Nuggets be a better team as the season progresses. Wins are great, but sometimes a win can cover up some key challenges that need to be addressed in the long haul.
The loss to the Lakers showed the Nuggets that they have some not-so insignificant offensive challenges to figure out. As Ryan Blackburn said in his Nuggets/Lakers game recap, the solution could involve a possible rotation change up. Freeing up Jokic to do his Jokic thing is of the utmost importance, and whatever needs to be done to make that happen should be a priority.
The Lakers also showed Denver that they need to get better at withstanding defensive pressure. I believe this will develop as they learn to rely on their own defensive game a little bit more, but I also think this will involve adaptations in coaching strategy. The Lakers changed their defense to put pressure on the Nuggets main offensive weapons: Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris.
Coach Mike Malone will need to learn to adjust his offense accordingly in those moments. As the Nuggets’ bench develops this season, this will likely become a little easier for Malone.
Yes, he only had two points in his 8 minutes on the court against LA, but the good news is he didn’t turn the ball over once. Juancho for President! Well, maybe not, but I would like to see him get more minutes in the starting lineup. I think he’ll prove to be a worthy fill-in while Will Barton recovers.
This week, the Nuggets take on the New Orleans Pelicans, Chicago Bulls, and Cleveland Cavaliers so there will be plenty of opportunity to change strategy and refocus. I’m optimistic about how they will perform.