The Denver Nuggets are still riding high coming off of their 11th consecutive home win, and another triple double from Nikola Jokic. In case you missed it, the Nuggets dealt the Los Angeles Clippers a blowout loss Thursday of this week led by stellar performances from both the starting lineup and the bench as 6 total Nuggets tallied double figures for the game.
With the loss to Houston a distant memory, the Nuggets remain locked into first place of the Western Conference nearly two games ahead of the Golden State Warriors.
Let’s look back at some of the top moments of the week.
Malik Beasley is a reliable resource
Although he doesn’t always get regular minutes, Beasley is a consistent and reliable resource for the Nuggets when they need him to step up and make a solid contribution. Although he would probably like to see more action on the court, Beasley is never one to complain about his role, and it’s obvious that he puts in the time to get better each and every game.
Against the Clippers Thursday, I was particularly impressed with Beasley’s maturity and poise not backing down against some of the more experienced players in the league. He came off the bench with an aggressive attitude and hit the ground running. He stayed focused offensively, and consistently found his way to the basket through heavy defense to score.
In his 31 minutes, he brought in 15 points on 60% shooting both from the field and from distance adding 5 assists along the way.
This type of effort off the bench makes the Nuggets longevity in the regular season and into the playoffs feel more secure. With Monte Morris and Beasley, the Nuggets’ offensive options expand exponentially to fit many different strategic scenarios they will need at their disposal as they enter the second half of the season.
Keeping players like Morris and Beasley in the rotation will also allow Jamal Murray to remain healthy as the season’s schedule only gets more grueling from here on out. Once the playoffs begin, Murray will need to be strong and rested to carry them through the first couple of rounds and hopefully beyond.
Mason Plumlee is the man
When the Nuggets first made the trade for Plumlee, I was really excited about how he would fit into the roster. His work ethic and attitude stood out in such stark contrast to the player who he was traded for that perhaps I was a little more optimistic about him than was reasonable at the time. Either way, his presence on the team felt like a fresh start.
But as excited as I was, I became equally disappointed in his performance after he arrived in Denver. To me, he looked awkward handling the ball, he wasn’t very aggressive on defense, and those DARN free throws just left me scratching my head.
That all seemed to change overnight toward the end of the season last year just before he was sidelined with injury. He suddenly became extremely aggressive, and had no problems leading the way on D as the Nuggets struggled to get their defensive game together.
This season, he’s not just a reliable role player, he’s a vital 6th man who contributes to each and every win. He still stinks at free throws at just 46.5%, but he’s more than made up for that this year with how he’s been performing overall.
It can’t be easy to fill Nikola Jokic’s shoes off the bench, but instead of trying to do that, Plumlee has personalized his role and made it something truly great and unique.
Keep up the good work, Mase. We’re impressed.
This team is really special
Looking at their position in the Western Conference, it’s obvious that the Nuggets are a good team. They were also a good team in 2012.
This particular group of players feels different. What they’re creating feels truly special.
Jokic’s leadership has developed into something that the Nuggets haven’t seen in a long time—maybe ever. His triple-double performances even have people comparing him to basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain. So far, Jokic is the only player after Chamberlain to tally three straight triple-doubles, and the only player with a triple double on more than 30 points with no missed field goals in a single game.
Now, Jokic has a long way to go before he’s as great as Wilt, but with such a long career ahead of him I have no doubt he will be one of the greatest NBA players of our time.
With Murray, Gary Harris, and Millsap to name just a few, Jokic’s skill set elevates this group in a way that no other player in the league could hope to do.
This organic, home-grown chemistry is the stuff great NBA stories are made of, and I’m really excited to see what the team will do this season, and the seasons to come.