Denver Nuggets games this week:
Wednesday, 11/20: Nuggets vs Houston Rockets (10-3)
James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the rest of the Rockets roster are coming to town. Well, it might as well only be James Harden honestly. He attempted 41 shots in Houston’s last victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, quite the spectacle of scoring. The Nuggets don’t have a player that’s perfect to match up with Harden, so they will likely use a committee. Gary Harris, Will Barton, Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, and Torrey Craig are all likely to spend at least some time on the lethal perimeter scorer. Let’s see who Harden fouls out first.
Friday, 11/22: Nuggets vs Boston Celtics (10-2)
Another big test for Denver as the Celtics, featuring a more egalitarian offensive attack around Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown, are dominating out of the gate. They lost to the Sacramento Kings though as Buddy Hield put up 35 in a one point victory. The Celtics are versatile, but without forward Gordon Hayward, they are more vulnerable offensively. The Nuggets secretly match up well here.
Sunday, 11/24: Nuggets vs Phoenix Suns (7-4)
The last matchup between these two teams was closer than anyone expected, and the Suns have improved since that game around surprise superstar Aron Baynes, who gave Nikola Jokic trouble the first time around. This feels like a perfect game for Jamal Murray to go off again, who will be going up against one of Ricky Rubio or Devin Booker consistently. Don’t be surprised if Murray goes for 30 again.
Injury Report: Will Barton may be dealing with an adductor issue
Bol Bol is officially of the injury report as he made his G-League debut this week, recording some nice dunks and blocks while showing off his intriguing skill set. Barton becomes an addition to this section though as he appeared on the injury report with adductor tightness last game. He played (and performed reasonably well) but the Nuggets were fortunate to limit his minutes in a blowout victory. How he handles more physical assignments against the Rockets, Celtics, and Suns will be interesting this week. Hopefully, it’s nothing major.
Nuggets bet of the week: OVER vs Houston Rockets
This just in: James Harden is a decently good scorer. Even without the assistance of Russell Westbrook, Clint Capela, and Eric Gordon last weekend vs the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Rockets put up 125 points behind 49 from Harden, 19 from Austin Rivers, and 20 from Ben McLemore. Yes, you read that correctly. The Rockets machine is going to score points, but if Houston is without their other stars, they may allow a ton of points too. The Nuggets may be figuring out this whole offense thing very shortly.
Nuggets DFS play of the week: Nikola Jokic vs Boston Celtics
Enes Kanter plays for the Boston Celtics, and the Celtics haven’t faced a guy like Jokic all season.
Spotlight on: The midrange math problem
The Nuggets are one of few teams who continue to take midrange shots at a higher frequency than either shots at the rim or three-pointers. Denver is currently ranked fourth in the NBA in midrange shot frequency, according to Cleaning the Glass, compared to 24th in frequency of shots at the rim and 24th in three-pointers.
This week is really going to put that offensive focus to the test, as Denver’s opponents rank:
- Houston - 23rd in rim frequency, 1st in three frequency, 4th in O Rating
- Boston - 15th in rim frequency, 12th in three frequency, 2nd in O Rating
- Phoenix - 8th in rim frequency, 9th in three frequency, 5th in O Rating
Houston genuinely focuses on the math problem, and as a result, they generally rule offensively behind a Harden-led attack. Boston has the talent to work for the best available shot, even if it’s a midrange look. They go in very frequently. Phoenix has developed into a lethal attack behind Booker and Rubio sharing ball handling duties. They space the floor well and are Morey-ball centric as well.
During the first 12 games, the Nuggets have faced a top 10 offense just three times. Two of the times, the Nuggets lost and they went to overtime against the Suns the other time. Time will tell if Denver’s defense can stop elite offenses, but what’s clear is that Denver’s own offense can’t keep up when the defense doesn’t stop the opposition.
The Nuggets must figure out their shot selection going forward if they want to achieve the success of other teams offensively. It’s holding them back, even in great wins that yield 130 points like Sunday’s victory over the Grizzlies. It did trend in the right direction with the Nuggets attacking the rim more frequently over settling for midrange attempts, so we will see if that trend holds for the next week. I have my doubts, but I’ve been wrong before.