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Mile Highs and Lows: A Recap of the Denver Nuggets in October

The season is still young for the Denver Nuggets, but there’s already been quite a few major headlines.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets are back in action and the roller coaster ride of emotions that #Nugglife always puts us through has already begun. After starting out the season 3-0 despite not playing their best basketball, they dropped their next two games, falling to a 3-2 record for the month of October. While losing to the Dallas Mavericks on a back-to-back was forgivable, the mood surrounding this team has quickly turned sour after a blowout loss to the winless New Orleans Pelicans to close out the month. Still, there are plenty of moments and stories to look back on through the first five games of the season, including the first official minutes played by their hyped up rookie, Michael Porter Jr. Let’s take a look:

Record in October: 3-2

Overall record: 3-2

Game of the Month: Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 108-100

In the ultimate revenge game, the Nuggets faced off against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs in the first game of the season, going up against the all-too-familiar Portland Trail Blazers. While they did not play their best basketball by any means, the Nuggets were able to steal the game thanks to 20 points and 13 rebounds from Nikola Jokic and 19 points from Will Barton. They did so while withstanding 32 points from Damian Lillard and a great performance from their new addition Hassan Whiteside. It was a great way to start off the season, as the team took one small step in erasing the sour taste in their mouths caused by the Blazers last season. Check out the highlights of the game below.

Highlight of the Month: Torrey Craig with the game saver against the Phoenix Suns

The home opener against the Phoenix Suns was a nail biter. Despite the feeling that the Nuggets should have run away with this game at home against an inferior team, they were not able to shake Devin Booker and the Suns. The game was sent into overtime, courtesy of a silly foul by Malik Beasley on three-point shooter Ricky Rubio. Then, in overtime, with the Nuggets leading 108-107 and under five seconds left on the clock, Booker made a strong drive towards the rim, causing the crowd to hold their breath as they could do nothing but watch. It looked like bad news for the home team, as Beasley faded away from Booker, allowing Booker to get a great look at the basket for the game winner. Then, out of nowhere, Torrey Craig flew in and batted the ball away, securing the game and salvaging the home opener. The play resulted in an eruption from the crowd and the Nuggets walked away with their second straight win to start the season.

Player of the Month:

Normally this is a section that is designated for Nikola Jokic. While Jokic has put up some impressive numbers through the first five games of the season, including two triple doubles, he doesn’t yet look like the Jokic we remember from the 2019 postseason. So if Jokic was not the player of the month, who was? This is a tough question to answer, because there really hasn’t been a player that has stood out on a consistent basis. Gary Harris has looked good in a couple of games, Paul Millsap looked great against the Dallas Mavericks, and Barton has shown that he’s on his way to having a bounce back season. Still, the player of the month may very well be Jamal Murray, who has averaged 17.8 points and more impressively, only two turnovers a game. He’s shown a calmness and maturity on the court that has oftentimes been absent in the past. Still, he’s struggled shooting from the field and has not developed a consistent rhythm on offense quite yet. If we know one thing after the first five games of the season, it’s that the Nuggets will need better performances from virtually every player in their rotation if they want to reach new heights.

Story of the Month: Michael Porter Jr.’s minutes (or lack thereof)

Since training camp, all of the buzz around this team has been largely centered on Michael Porter Jr., the rookie that redshirted last season and who many hope will eventually become one of the best players to wear a Nuggets uniform. While this is probably an unfair expectation to have, MPJ did show flashes of brilliance in the preseason, including an absolute smooth-as-ca-be jumper. So, it came as quite a surprise, and disappointment, to those fans when MPJ did not log a single minute on the court through the first four games of the season. While the decision not to play the rookie can be defended, considering that Craig, Barton, and others all also deserve minutes and have shown what they can do on this team, it still led many to wonder, including ESPN’s analysts, if head coach Michael Malone was making the right decision keeping him out of the rotation.

The conversation took a turn on October 30th when Malone made comments that seemed to hint at a possible opportunity for MPJ, as he told the media that he knows he will have to fit him into the rotation eventually.

True to his word, MPJ’s time came on Friday night against the Pelicans, thanks in large part due to Barton’s toe injury. He did not disappoint, as he was the lone bright spot in their blowout loss to the Pelicans, finishing with 15 points in only 20 minutes on 5/8 shots. While many of his minutes came in garbage time, it’s obvious at this point that MPJ finds ways to score. Only time will tell if his debut will be quickly followed by more opportunities, but for right now, there’s plenty to be excited about with MPJ.

Surprise of the Month: The dispute between Altitude TV and the “Big 3” has carried into the season

Since even before this season started, there’s been a cloud hanging over all Nuggets fans as they realized that they’ll have to get creative in order to just watch the games. For over a month now, the contract dispute between Altitude TV and the three major TV providers (Dish Network, DirecTV and Comcast) has prevented fans from watching the Nuggets on TV. When it was first announced that Altitude was struggling to get a contract done with either of these three providers, I’m sure the majority of fans figured it would be resolved by the start of the Colorado Avalanche season, and certainly by the start of the Nuggets season. Instead, the Nuggets are five games into the season and there’s still not been a solution for all fans.

For the first time in a long time, however, there’s a glimmer of hope, as it was just announced that Altitude TV has reached an agreement with DirecTV. While it’s unknown if this is a sign of things to come for the other two providers, it’s at least encouraging that something has been able to get done. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with Comcast and Dish Network, but hopefully every fan that wants to will be able to watch all of the games on their TV screen very soon.

Grade for the Month: C-

What’s new on Denver Stiffs:

The Denver Stiffs have gotten off to a hot start this season. There’s a new site manager, new writers, and new podcasts. All of this has resulted in new voices and perspectives to add to the site. To highlight just a few of the pieces from Stiffs this month...

Roundtable introducing new writers

First and foremost, get to know the newest Stiffs that will be providing you with coverage all season long.

Media Day Coverage

As is the tradition on Denver Stiffs, there was one, convenient stream for our readers to follow for all of the stories that came out of Media Day. What did MPJ say prior to his rookie season? What does coach Malone expect from the team this season? All of this and much more was included in our media day coverage.

20 Question series

Starting in mid-September and going into October, the Denver Stiffs released a “20 Questions” series in which various writers wrote columns centered around the most prominent questions leading into the 2019-20 season. These questions ranged from the potential of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic to take another leap in their games, to the likelihood of the team to make a midseason trade, to whether or not Torrey Craig and Mason Plumlee will be here for the long haul. This was a great way to preview the season and address the questions that all fans had prior to the season.

Staff Predictions

Also a tradition at Stiffs, the writers took turns stating their predictions for this season. Who did we think would win the MVP Award? What record do we think the Nuggets will finish with? Which team will win it all? Take a look at all of our predictions, with easy-to-read graphs to go along with the picks.

Plenty of Podcasts!

The Denver Stiffs have added to their podcast game this season. One of the additions is the Denver Stiffs Show, which features a group of writers at Pepsi Center as they react to games. Since we have so many writers that will be covering the games in person, it just made sense to get them all together following the games to give us their commentary. Make sure to check the site after the home games for the latest episodes!

Breaking Basketball docuseries

In what has already become a fan favorite, Breaking Basketball is a multipart docuseries that looks back on the 2019-20 season, with plenty of soundbites reacting to the many ups and downs that take place. Brought to you by the hosts of The Dig Podcast, it’s a very creative way at looking at the many ways that this season can unfold for our Nuggets. If you haven’t already done so, you have to check it out!