The Denver Nuggets had themselves another good month in February. It started off with two solid wins against the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves. The Nuggets then faltered a little bit during their four-game road trip prior to the all-star break, losing three in a row at the end of the trip. The Nuggets salvaged the month, however, by going on a five-game winning streak. Unfortunately, February ended on a sour note after a heartbreaking loss to the Utah Jazz. Still, the Nuggets are in a position to battle the Warriors for the first seed in the Western Conference. This is in large part due to the fact that the team is now the healthiest they have been the entire season. Isaiah Thomas made his return to the court this month, one of the highlights of the season so far, and the Nuggets are now poised to make a playoff push with their (mostly) healthy roster.
Record in November: 7-4
Overall record: 42-19
Game of the Month: Denver Nuggets vs. Houston Rockets (2/1/19)
Arguably the best game of the month was the first game of the month, between the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets. It turned out to be a great game to kick off February, as the Nuggets snapped their nine-game losing streak to the Rockets that spanned three seasons. This game was huge for a couple of reasons. First, the Nuggets were playing without their starting backcourt, as Jamal Murray and Gary Harris were both out with injuries. Thanks to a career night from Malik Beasley, who scored 35 pounds on 12/17 shooting, the Nuggets were still able to overpower James Harden, Chris Paul and the Rockets. Second, the Nuggets have now notched wins against every powerhouse in the Western Conference this season. Before February 1st, the general consensus amongst Nuggets fans was that the Rockets are just a horrible matchup for this team. While that fact still remains true, the Nuggets will have more confidence going into a potential series with the Rockets in the playoffs now that they know they can defeat this team. Fans no longer have only blowout losses to think about when we remember past games against the Rockets.
Highlight of the Month: Nikola Jokic game winner vs. Sacramento Kings (2/13/19)
At the end of January, Michael Malone had a great quote to the media in which he confirmed that Nikola Jokic is officially the designated closer of this team. Jokic has been proving that he is worthy of that title the entire season, and no game is better proof of this then the one against the Sacramento Kings right before the all-star break. With the game tied, the Joker had the ball in his hands and attempted a floater at the rim. Anticipating the miss, he then tipped the ball in with 0.3 seconds, sealing the win for the home team and salvaging the first game in a Nuggets uniform for Isaiah Thomas. It wasn’t the flashiest game winner any of us have seen, but it perfectly summed up the Joker’s game. He simply gets the job done.
Michael Malone On Jokic’s performance down the stretch: “Last year it was closer by committee. This year it’s clear. Everybody knows where the ball is going. Nikola Jokic is our closer.”— Nick Kosmider (@NickKosmider) January 31, 2019
Player of the Month: Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokic had himself quite the month in February. He had impressive averages of 22.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 7.8 assists. He recorded four triple-doubles in February, including two back-to-back against the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers (both losses, unfortunately). His best stat line of the month came against the Oklahoma City Thunder, as he scored 36 points to go along with 10 assists and 9 rebounds. Not only did he have a great month on the court, but he also got to play in his first career all-star game. It’s safe to say Jokic has taken that next step this season to becoming the leader of this team. In fact, I may have to change this category next season to “Player of the Month not named Nikola Jokic,” or else this section could get pretty boring.
Story of the Month: The Nuggets are FINALLY healthy
The Denver Nuggets, more so than perhaps any other team in the league, really needed the all-star break this season. Isaiah Thomas had just returned prior to the break from his hip injury, and Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray and Will Barton had all returned recently from injuries of their own. The week long break from game action hopefully allowed those players to get closer to 100%. In fact, all three of them have looked better in the past week. Barton scored 23 points to go along with 5 assists against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Millsap has come on extremely strong since the all-star break with his stout defense and big time offensive plays when needed. Furthermore, Gary Harris used the all-star break to get healthy enough to return to the lineup. This all made it so that when the Nuggets took the court following the break against the Dallas Mavericks, they were the healthiest they have ever been this season. Now it’s time to see what this team can do fully loaded.
Surprise of the month: The Nuggets coaching staff was awarded the chance to coach in the all-star game
After the Denver Nuggets defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 2nd in a thrilling fashion, it was official: Coach Malone and his staff would get to coach Team LeBron in the 2019 NBA all-star game. It was not an easy road to that achievement, either. The Nuggets had to win six straight games in order to have the same record as the Warriors by February 3rd, the day the coaches for the all-star game were determined. Due to the Nuggets holding the tiebreaker as a result of having a better conference record, Malone and his crew were able to accompany Jokic to Charlotte.
This was a huge accomplishment, not just for the coaches but for the entire organization. It means that through 55 games, the Nuggets were the best team record-wise in the Western Conference. Considering that their conference holds powerhouses such as the Warriors, Thunder, and the Rockets, that is a truly incredible feat. After the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James, after the Thunder re-signed Paul George, and after many of the other teams in the West got better in the offseason through either the draft, trades, or free agency, I don’t think absolutely anyone would have predicted that Malone would be sitting on the sidelines to watch a Nugget play in the all-star game for the first time since Carmelo Anthony. What also made this moment so special was the players’ reaction following the game. Check out the clip below from the locker room.
Grade for the month: B
What’s new on Denver Stiffs:
In case you missed it on the Stiffs, here are just a few of some pieces you have to check out:
- Brendan Vogt perfectly encapsulates in this article why the Denver Nuggets need Paul Millsap.
- Ryan Blackburn brought us another Stat of the Week recently in which he analyzes where the Nuggets currently stand in the playoff race and what they need to do to put themselves in the best situation possible at the end of the regular season.
- The Father of the Denver Stiffs, Andrew Feinstein, made an appearance on the site in order to pen this great piece on what a Denver Nuggets vs. Milwaukee Bucks finals matchup would mean to him, and what it would mean for small market teams everywhere.
- The Locked on Nuggets completed their first live podcast, as Adam Mares, along with special guests, went live in front of fans prior to Jokic taking the court in his first all-star game.
- Need some new Nuggets gear to get ready for the playoffs? The Stiffs and D-Line Co are proud to present two new shirts available for purchase. One features the GOAT Jokic (the shirt literally depicts the Joker as a goat) and the other showcases the famous phrase from the Locked on Nuggets podcast...”The ball is poppin’.” Get them now!
- Mike Olson once agains brings us an extremely creative column in which he describes why the Nuggets are having such success this season. It’s a must read if you want an assessment on how each player has performed so far and why that’s allowing the Nuggets to have such a great season.
There was plenty of other new and informative pieces on the site this month, so go check it all out!