Denver Nuggets games this week:
Tuesday, 11/26: Nuggets vs Washington Wizards (5-9)
The Wizards can score like crazy. They have the second best offensive rating in the NBA, even with what was considered a depleted roster. Their problem? They own the second worst defensive rating. The Nuggets should be able to score on Washington relatively easily. With former Nugget for a minute Isaiah Thomas, rookie Rui Hachimura, and a cast of poor defenders playing major minutes, this could be Denver’s best chance to find a legitimate footing offensively.
Saturday, 11/30: Nuggets @ Sacramento Kings (7-8)
The Kings rank 18th in offensive rating and 20th and defensive rating at the moment, and while they have won seven of their last 10 games, many of those games have had close margins. Without De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley, Sacramento loses some of their luster, and it’s clear that they are straining at the moment. If Denver comes out strong and hits some shots, there should be no issues here.
Injury Report: None
It’s a breath of fresh air to see no real injury concerns with this Nuggets roster. Bol Bol was out last night due to injury management, but it’s possible that he will be active for Tuesday’s contest against Washington. Will Barton had dealt with some adductor concerns last week, and Mason Plumlee woke up with some severe headaches before Sunday’s game, but other than that, Denver’s simply dealing with the normal bumps and bruises.
With everyone healthy, it’s fair to wonder when Denver will start utilizing some load management to help their starters get some rest and open the rotation from game to game for the rest of the rotation. Paul Millsap has played very well to start the year, but managing his minutes is key to keeping him fresh for a playoff run. Nikola Jokic could probably use a game off every now and then. Jamal Murray continues to take hard shots from playing as hard as he does, and while he bounces to his feet every time, the Nuggets don’t need him every single game.
Food for thought.
Nuggets bet of the week: Team OVER vs Washington Wizards
I missed on the OVER against the Rockets last week, but I feel better about the OVER against a bad Wizards defense on Tuesday. This Nuggets team is rolling right now, and they are starting to find their offensive flow. Denver will have a big advantage at multiple positions, including Jamal Murray against Isaiah Thomas at point guard. If the Wizards shift Thomas off ball, either Gary Harris or Will Barton are strong and skilled enough to turn that mismatch into something beneficial for the team.
In addition to the starters, the bench may be finding their flow as well. As long as they continue to run fast breaks and create open three-pointers, Denver should be in great position to hit the OVER on Tuesday night.
Nuggets DFS play of the week: Paul Millsap vs Washington Wizards
Last week, I said to play Nikola Jokic against the Celtics. He had a triple-double. A quiet one, but one nonetheless. This week, Paul Millsap has a juicy matchup against the Wizards, as he will likely be defended by rookie Rui Hachimura for most of the night. Millsap was cooking against Dario Saric and the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night, scoring 23 points on just 12 field goal attempts. He has an easier matchup on Tuesday and should be able to get to the free throw line as well.
Spotlight on: Elite Defense for Elite Offense?
The Nuggets dropped to sixth in defensive rating after a weak defensive performance against an undermanned Phoenix Suns team Sunday night, but the margin between second and sixth amounts to a few extra buckets here or there. What really stands out over the last two weeks is that, according to Cleaning the Glass, the Nuggets have maintained the fourth ranked offense and seventh ranked defense in all non-garbage time minutes played.
Defense takes such a large amount of effort that it’s very rare for teams to maintain an elite offense and defense at the same time. Usually, if a team focuses on one unit, the other begins to slip. The Nuggets were like this in the 2016-17 season, in which they were basically the best offense and worst defense in the NBA after Nikola Jokic initially took over. Since then, the Nuggets have trended in the right direction defensively, ranking 23rd in defensive rating in 2017-18, 10th in 2018-19, and the aforementioned sixth now. The offense, while still solid, has slipped in the process.
In the last two weeks, the Nuggets have found the sweet spot between elite offense and elite defense, cracking the top 7 in both. They blew out a bad Memphis Grizzlies team, won with defense against some borderline elite squads in Houston and Boston, and outscored Phoenix last night. They can win in different ways depending on the situation, which is something an elite squad can usually do. It will be something to pay attention to when the Nuggets have to go on the road more frequently than of late, but they have already established themselves defensively. Now, the goal has to be to get Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and the rest of the Nuggets back to their efficient offensive ways without compromising the defense.
For more info on Denver’s transition from an offensive to a defensive team, see Stat of the Week today.