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This Week in Nuggets: December 2nd to 8th

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Here’s what Nuggets fans can expect this week

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Nuggets games this week:

Tuesday, 12/3: Nuggets vs Los Angeles Lakers (17-3)

This is Denver’s second big test of the season. After facing down James Harden and the Houston Rockets, the Nuggets will welcome LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the rest of the Lakers into Pepsi Center. A battle between the Western Conference’s top two seeds, the Nuggets need their stars to step up against LA’s dynamic duo. Nikola Jokic is averaging 15.6 points and just 2.5 free throw attempts per game, two direct indicators that he hasn’t been as aggressive as years past. If Jokic doesn’t play well, the Nuggets likely lose by a lot on their home floor in their new black rainbow jerseys.

Thursday, 12/5: Nuggets @ New York Knicks (4-16)

This begins the first game of the road trip, and the Nuggets may need a warmup game against a really bad team to get themselves back on track. The Knicks are the worst team in the NBA, non “injured Golden State Warriors” division, and the Nuggets match up well with them if they bring it on both ends. Don’t be surprised if this game is closer than anticipated.

Friday, 12/6: Nuggets @ Boston Celtics (14-5)

Boston just got back Kemba Walker from injury, and they will be out for revenge against the Nuggets for winning previously. Denver matches up well with them...if they bring the same intensity that won Denver the game last time. Nikola Jokic needs to dominate here.

Sunday, 12/8: Nuggets @ Brooklyn Nets (10-10)

Another game in which Nikola Jokic should have a distinct advantage over his opponent. Jokic owns Jarrett Allen and the Brooklyn Nets when he’s on, and I expect him to be back in gear at this point. The question will be whether Kyrie Irving plays or not. He’s dealing with a bizarre injury saga.

Injury Report: Bol Bol out with injury management

I speculated that Bol might suit up for some of Denver’s home games last week, but he has been out for all three of the games he has been in Denver due to injury management. His foot surgery was a scary one, and the red flags were all over the place on him coming out of the draft. It seems that the Nuggets have decided to take things slow with him and are simply checking on his progression towards a full recovery.

Nuggets bet of the week: NONE

Betting the OVER on this team has been a tough proposition. The Nuggets have turned into an UNDER team due to their strong defense and weak offense to start the year.

There are a lot of betting opportunities with a full slate this week, but I don’t have a great pulse on where the group is mentally, and games against the Lakers and Celtics won’t help matters.In a game against the Knicks, the Nuggets and the points would seem like a great bet, but I have hesitations there as well.

Without knowing Kyrie Irving’s status for the Nets game this coming Sunday, I’d say Denver’s a “stay away” team at this point.

Washington Wizards v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Nuggets DFS play of the week: Will Barton vs New York Knicks on Friday

The one constant in Denver’s offense to start the year: Will Barton will continue to get his touches. Barton is averaging 15.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game this season, and he certainly feels like a guy who will get up for a big arena like Madison Square Garden. Combine those factors with the team he will be facing and what looks to be a favorable matchup for him offensively (Kevin Knox or RJ Barrett) and I see him at least accumulating his season averages on Thursday night.

Spotlight on: Nikola Jokic’s November splits

This may have been the worst statistical month of Nikola Jokic’s career. He’s an elite player, so he still averaged 15.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game on 51.0% true shooting, but Nuggets fans have come to expect a better effort on the offensive end from their superstar. He has established such a high baseline for himself in years past that so many games with a low activity level are a jarring change.

Jokic attempted just 26 free throws this month. The last month with a full slate of games that Jokic accumulated less than 26 free throws was February of 2016—his rookie season. He had 25 while only averaging 21 minutes per game. Jokic typically generates free throws by becoming the aggressor in the paint. So many players can’t handle his size when he’s backing people down or crashing the glass for rebounds.

Nuggets fans may recall November of last season as a month in which Jokic struggled. He averaged just 13.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 7.1 assists on 51.6% true shooting, very similar numbers to this November. In November of 2017-18, he averaged just 14.9 points, the lowest total of any month that season. In his career, Jokic averages just 12.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game on 54.8% true shooting. All of those numbers are career lows for any month of Jokic’s career.

It’s very possible that Nikola Jokic just hates playing in the month of November. Thankfully, that’s the end of that, and December is rolling in. Watch for Nikola Jokic to kick things into gear as soon as tomorrow against the Lakers. If he’s still struggling in December, then it will be time to be concerned...