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NBA Power Rankings: A perfect week, but mixed results

A 3-0 week (including a shellacking of the Lakers) isn’t enough to convince the media

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Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets are cruising. A six game win streak, a dominant second half against the Western Conference leading Lakers (yeah, yeah, LeBron wasn’t playing, it was still a beat down regardless) and an healthy offense led by Nikola Jokic’s resurgence. Life is good in Denver.

Are the Nuggets a legit contender though? Surprisingly (or not), most outside of Denver still has doubts. Questions about strength of schedule arise and disregard last night’s W because of the LeBron factor. One outlet has the Nuggets jumping up to second in the NBA, but most had Denver flat to last week’s rankings.

Let them sleep.


Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 9

So LeBron wasn’t playing, but it’s tough not to be impressed by the Nuggets’ dominant second half at Staples Center on Sunday to win their sixth straight game. The brilliant balance of Denver was on full display, with six players in double figures. After a lull a couple of weeks ago, the Nuggets’ offense has come alive, sending the firm reminder that this contender is still to be taken very seriously.

Bleacher Report

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 9

Led by an increasingly familiar (read: good again) version of Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets ran off five straight wins before their tilt on Sunday against a Los Angeles Lakers team that needed a win at home after a difficult week.

Denver handed it to the Lakers. Though LeBron James didn’t play, the Nuggets still deserve credit for extending their winning streak to six games by downing the conference’s top team.

Jokic was dominant in Denver’s run up to and through the win over L.A., and Jamal Murray (33 points against Orlando on Wednesday and 28 more to help beat Minnesota on Friday) is pairing more reliable scoring with improved defensive play. He’s been more engaged on that end than ever before, and his defensive box plus/minus is in the black for the first time in his career.

The significant gap between Denver opponents’ actual and expected effective field-goal percentage based on shot location remains. But we’ve been noting that all year, and the Nuggets’ defensive efficiency keeps holding strong. Only the Milwaukee Bucks allow fewer points per 100 possessions.

The Athletic

Nuggets Rank: 5
Last week: 8

The Nuggets needed a reprieve on the schedule and they got it. After losing five of six games with the only win coming against New York, the Nuggets got a little bit of a breather. They took full advantage of righting the ship with the previous five games before LeBron sat out their showdown with the Lakers. They played Portland, Oklahoma City, New York (again), Orlando, and Minnesota. Aside from the Knicks, those aren’t four gimme games, but they’re still all bad enough that the Nuggets should have taken them down. And they did. They won all five games to help put themselves pointed in the right direction.

It’s hard to watch these Nuggets games and not just walk away super impressed with the Jerami Grant addition from this summer. He gives them remarkable defense, lineup versatility, and a 3-point shot that’s flirting with 40 percent on the season. Denver has struggled with their offense for much of this season, and the splits on wins and losses with Grant have certainly reflected that. He drops from a 43.8 percent 3-point shooter to a 32.3 percent shooter from wins to losses. They need him out there stretching the floor and balling out next to Nikola Jokic or Mason Plumlee. I love the way Michael Malone and the Nuggets have implemented him, instead of feeling pressured to give those minutes to redshirt rookie Michael Porter Jr most nights.

CBS Sports

Nuggets Rank: 2
Last week: 8

Denver is rolling, winners of six straight including an impressive effort against the Lakers without LeBron James to close out the week. The Nuggets’ defense has been great all season, but the offense has really started to click in recent weeks as Nikola Jokic has improved his play. The offensive attack is always spread, with Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap all capable of having big scoring nights.

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 8

The Nuggets may have found their offense. After ranking 22nd offensively (106.4 points scored per 100 possessions) through their first 22 games, they’ve had the league’s most efficient attack (119.3 per 100) over their six-game winning streak. Having grabbed 37% of available offensive boards (and averaged 17.3 second-chance points) over the six games, they’ve risen from 10th to first in offensive rebounding percentage. After a 5-0 homestand, highlighted by a 31-2 run (in which they had more offensive rebounds than the opponent had defensive rebounds) against the Magic on Wednesday, they took the show on the road, handing the Lakers their worst loss of the season on Sunday. Nikola Jokic (21.8 points on an effective field goal percentage of 64%, 8.3 assists) has led six Nuggets averaging double-figures over the streak and the offense has held up with him off the floor, even as Michael Malone has managed to squeeze in some minutes for an 11th man over the last few games. Malik Beasley had his highest scoring game since Week 1 (16 points) on Sunday.