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

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The Nuggets finished the month of November 10-2 and had some impressive wins to boot.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Were it not for a 42-point explosion by Trae Young on November 12th and a blown 17-point lead against the Sacramento Kings, the month of November would have been perfect for the Denver Nuggets. Before the game against the Atlanta Hawks, the Nuggets had won four in a row to start the month. After that game, the Nuggets finished the month by winning the next six but dropping the last game against the Kings. Despite their abysmal performance in the second half of the Kings game, I think it’s still safe to say the Nuggets have found their groove. Although Nikola Jokic is still not scoring as much as we thought he would to start the season, players like Will Barton, Jamal Murray, and Paul Millsap have really stepped up. Most importantly, however, the Nuggets have proven to be one of the best defensive teams in the league. While the schedule overall was kind in November (8 home games), the Nuggets did have impressive wins against the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, and Boston Celtics. The Nuggets have established themselves as a team that will most likely be contending for a top spot in the Western Conference. Let’s take a look at how they fared over the past 30 days.

Record in November: 10-2

Overall record: 13-4

Game of the Month: Denver Nuggets vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 100-97 (11/8/19)

In what may end up being the game of the season, the Denver Nuggets matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers was a historical one. When the fourth quarter rolled around and the Nuggets managed to fall behind by 21 points, the game seemed all but over. Then, a miraculous thing happened. Slowly but surely, they started to chip away at the deficit. Led by Nikola Jokic (26 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists) and Jamal Murray (22 points, 11 assists, and 6 rebounds), the Nuggets completed the biggest fourth quarter comeback in franchise history. The Nuggets played an outstanding fourth quarter, outscoring their opponent 35-13. With less than four seconds left and the Nuggets down 96-97, Jokic got the ball and threw up a jumper from just inside the three-point line. Nothing but net. Then, on the other end of the floor, Jokic managed to get Joel Embiid called for an offensive foul that sealed the game for the home team. It was one of the most entertaining games I can imagine witnessing, and it will not be soon forgotten.

Highlight of the Month: Nikola Jokic back-to-back game winners

The Highlight of the Month needs to be the Highlights of the Month in November, because Jokic did something that few players in the NBA can do. He scored back-to-back game winners, first against the 76ers that helped the Nuggets cap off their historic comeback, and then against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s hard to say which one is most impressive. While the one against Philadelphia allowed the Nuggets to achieve the historical comeback, the one against Minnesota with Karl Anthony Towns guarding him was also a great sight to behold. It was after these two games that fans started coming to the realization that, although the team was not playing anywhere near their potential, they more often than not seem to find a way to pull out a win. It was also pretty perfect that Jokic hit two straight game winners, considering that many were becoming concerned at this point in the season that Jokic was putting up lackluster performances.

Player of the month: Jamal Murray

So far this season, Jamal Murray has shown that he has improved in virtually every aspect of the game. Playmaking, consistency, defense...Murray has been better than he was last season. In November, he has averaged 18.8 points and 5.3 assists a game. Murray is currently leading the team in scoring so far this season. On November 17th against the Memphis Grizzlies, he exploded for 39 points on 14/24 shooting. He’s also hit crucial shots in multiple games this month, including the one against the Celtics to secure a 96-92 win. While Jokic is still Denver’s most important player, Murray is the player that will put this team over the top in their quest to contend for a championship. If he can reach new levels this season, then the Nuggets’ chances are that much better. While he still can improve in a lot of areas (take his poor decision making in the last seconds of the game against the Kings to close the month as an example), what we’ve seen from him in the month of November is very promising.

Story of the Month: The Defense

Over the month of November, the Nuggets have proven that they should be taken seriously as a legitimate defensive team. A large reason why the team has been so successful on this end of the court is Gary Harris. Time and time again, dynamic guards have been matched up against Harris and have not been able to reach their season averages as a result of Harris’ pesty defense. Whether it be Devin Booker, James Harden, or Bradley Beal, a pattern is developing. This has resulted in his teammates being vocal about Harris deserving a place on First-Team All-Defense.

However, it’s not just Harris that has the Nuggets playing great defense. As Action Network’s Matt Moore indicates in the below tweet, the Nuggets (as of November 28, 2019) had the best defensive rating in the NBA. This undoubtedly is a result of everybody buying into Michael Malone’s game plan every night. While they have shown lapses at times (see the game against the Atlanta Hawks), all in all this looks like a team that can hold their own on that end of the court. Only time will tell if this is sustainable through 82 games, but my guess is the Nuggets will continue to prove that they are a defensive minded team throughout the season.

Surprise of the month: Malik Beasley falling out of the rotation

In what came as a shock to many Nuggets fans, Malik Beasley notched a few DNPs in the month of November. After missing time due to an illness, Beasley found himself at the end of the bench, with Michael Malone opting instead to put players such as Torrey Craig and Juancho Hernangomez in the rotation instead. After a breakout year in 2018-19, Beasley has gotten off to a slow start in his contract season, averaging only 6.2 points a game. His field-goal percentage has also taken a hit, dropping from 47.4% a year ago to 38.6% this season. Malone’s decision to bench Beasley was a controversial one. On the one hand, Beasley played a big part in the Nuggets’ success last season, including during their playoff run. On the other hand, Juancho Hernangomez seeing minutes has been a huge spark for the team in critical periods. Based on the last three games, it looks like Beasley is back in the rotation, but Malone definitely has hard decisions to make every game with his rotation. Hopefully Beasley can soon resemble the player that we learned to love last season.

Grade for the month: A

What’s new on Denver Stiffs:

In case you haven’t been following the Stiffs website over the last month, here’s a list of some (but not all) of the best content.

  • Who makes the list of the Stiffest of Stiffs in Denver Nuggets history? Check out Zach Mikash’s article in which he picks the stiffest player at each position to ever wear a Nuggets uniform.
  • In this one, Ryan Blackburn takes a look at a pattern that has been developing so far this season regarding the relationship between the team’s offensive and defensive ratings.
  • Ever wonder why it is that the Nuggets can never seem to earn the respect they deserve from the national media? Well, if you’re in the mood for a very sarcastic and entertaining take on this subject, check out Nick Hertzog’s article titled “5 reasons why the Nuggets don’t deserve respect.”
  • Juancho Hernangomez has been a fan favorite ever since joining the Nuggets in 2016. It is for this reason that Brandon Ewing’s piece on Juancho and his exceptional teammate skills should be read by all.
  • Carmelo Anthony has made his return to the NBA this month, joining the Nuggets’ division rival Portland Trail Blazers. In this excellent piece, Zach Mikash argues that Nuggets’ fans should drop any long-held grudge and appreciate Melo for what he did for this organization.