After a few tough losses, the Nuggets bounced back this week winning a nail-biter against the Sacramento Kings with the help of Isaiah Thomas who is now a healthy and active part of the Nuggets roster.
Despite the minor losing hiccups, the Nuggets are just two games behind the Golden State Warriors and still holding onto second place in the Western Conference standings heading into All-Star Weekend.
I know all of us are anxiously awaiting the All-Star festivities now that the Nuggets are a prominent part of the weekend, but first, let’s quickly recap the week.
Jokic tallies his 28th career triple-double, and the game winning tip-in against Sacramento
Ahead of his All-Star debut, Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets to their victory over the Kings this week while Coach Mike Malone was forced to watch from the locker room after being ejected in the first half.
Jokic is so consistently incredible that it almost seems mundane to report yet another clutch performance, but his hard work deserves all the recognition it gets. I knew it would be a good game for Jokic when he assisted himself off the backboard for a shot that was equal parts casual and spectacular.
What I most loved about Jokic’s performance in this game was the winning tip-in. Everyone in sports loves a good buzzer-beater, but I specifically like to see Jokic step up for the important plays of the game.
One of the things I love about Jokic is his reluctance to take the spotlight, but as the Nuggets’ appointed leader, it’s important for him to assume his prominent role when the Nuggets need to close. If the Nuggets want to make it to the next level, Jokic will need to continue to be comfortable taking the reins in key game moments.
Fortunately, his game instincts are on point so I trust that he’ll know exactly when he needs to rise up to get the job done.
Isaiah Thomas makes his debut
In what I see as the most perfect timing possible, Thomas made his Nuggets debut this week showing just how valuable he will be to the organization once his game is back at 100%. Thomas hasn’t played in nearly a year, and his lengthy absence left him admittedly a little nervous stepping back onto the court.
However, confidence in his game helped him make a grand entrance for the Nuggets as he brought in 8 points at 50% from the field and 40% from 3 in only 13 minutes on the court. When asked how he was going to fit in to a Nuggets team that is already gelling so nicely he responded by saying he’s not someone that fits in, he’s someone who stands out.
Coach Malone discussed how he didn’t pressure Thomas to come back at any specific time, but rather, allowed him to take the time he needed to fully recover. Malone explained how Thomas had come back from injury too soon when he played for other teams, and it had been detrimental to his game overall. Fortunately, the Nuggets had the backup needed to fill in for the recuperating star leading up to this point.
Even though he wasn’t on the court, Malone encouraged Thomas to take a vocal leadership role with the Nuggets’ young roster from the sidelines. All season, Thomas could be seen giving encouragement and advice to his teammates during timeouts. Malone explained that Thomas’ high-level playoff experience will give the Nuggets valuable perspective as they enter the final part of the regular season.
I’ve always been a big fan of Thomas, and I’m happy to see his career on the upward path once again. His winning mindset and experience has helped the Nuggets stay locked-in this season, and I look forward to how much value he can provide now that he can lead from the court as well.
I believe he may be the key that takes Denver past the first, and maybe second rounds of the post-season.
Of course we’re all so excited about where the Nuggets are headed this season, and what will undoubtedly be years to come, but I’m working on keeping things in a healthy perspective.
Chatting with my good friend and fellow Denver Stiff Mike Olson this week, he mentioned something very interesting to me that I think we all need to keep in mind.
He described a term used in psychology called “anchoring”. This is the concept of relying too heavily on the first piece of information when making subsequent judgments. He explained that if we as Nuggets fans had been told that the Nuggets would be a 5th or 6th seed this season, everyone would have been thrilled.
However, because the Nuggets have performed SO well out of the gate, I’m concerned fans will be disappointed in them if they don’t make it to the Western Conference Finals, or win a title.
The Nuggets’ growth pattern has made a tremendous spike this season, but we have to keep in mind that they haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs in quite some time. While I’m hopeful they will do this, and more, I have to prepare myself that it’s possible they won’t this season—and that’s not going to cause me to give up on them.
Our Nuggets are and will be an incredibly special team for many years to come, but it’s important for us all to be hopeful with them while also balancing our immediate expectations with reality.
The first goal was for them to make the playoffs, the next will be making past the first round, and so-on. If they’re knocked out earlier than their current position indicates they should be this year, I’m not losing faith that their future is bright.
As we all know, Jokic and Malone are participating in All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, and I wish them the best of luck! Represent us well guys!