Spring has officially sprung and between demanding clients, and Nuggets playoff basketball I’ve quite frankly been a nervous wreck. As much as I took things in stride in the regular season, it’s safe to say I REALLY care about seeing our boys succeed, and watching them this past week has been stressful to say the least.
However, I have to check myself and temper my expectations as I advised everyone else to do as we approached the post-season. The Nuggets are still alive, and although there are some serious mistakes to correct, there’s still time to get the job done.
Let’s review the week.
Nikola Jokic tallies a triple double in Game 1
With 10 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists in the first game, this statistic alone is truly amazing as Jokic is only the 4th player ever to bring in a triple double in his playoff debut. He shares this rare air with Johnny McCarthy, Magic Johnson, and LeBron James. However, as much as this is great news, I actually think Jokic could have been a little less selfish during game 1.
I know, I’m usually the first one to praise the unselfish role player, but I felt like there were quite a few shot opportunities Jokic passed up when he seemed to be within scoring range. Our main man has said time and again how he would rather be the one making the pass to the guy scoring the ball rather than the one actually bringing in the points, and that works great in the regular season. But in the playoffs, that mentality needs to change and he has to become comfortable in the lead.
If his shot is there, he needs to take and not second guess himself. It’s evident after three games that there are some players who are suffering with some post-season jitters so the Nuggets need Jokic to strike while the iron is hot.
Jamal Murray and Will Barton are struggling
As we all know, the Nuggets offense is made up of many talented shooters who work hard to get open for Jokic. However, two of the Nuggets best shooters have been fairly unreliable thus far in the playoffs.
Murray brought in 24 points (and the win) in game 2, but he only got hot in the 4th quarter after struggling all game long. You could visibly see the mental battle taking place for him on the court, and the shift in confidence as his shots started to fall in the final minutes of the game. Unfortunately, he followed that performance by bringing in only 6 points in game 3 as the Nuggets fell to the Spurs 118-108.
In game 1, Barton brought in 15 points but went only 6/15 from the field and 1/5 from 3. What bothered me most about his performance in game 1 is that he seemed to resort back to his terrible tendency to want to be the hero. To make matters worse, he didn’t quit when his shot wasn’t falling. He put up one bad shot after another when there was a full shot clock he could have used to find his teammates open for a better play.
Scott Hastings said something profound in game 3 that really stuck with me. He said that you can be an All-Star in the NBA if you simply know your limitations and play within the bounds of what you know you’re good at. I wish Barton would heed this advice and understand that when he abandons the team approach in favor of isolation ball that plan fails most of the time. He followed up his disappointing solo act in game 1 with only 3 points at 0/6 from distance in game 2, and 4 points at 2/8 overall shots in game 3. Ouch.
Without these two, it’s going to be tough for the Nuggets to make it out of this round against San Antonio. I hope they can pull it together soon.
Malik Beasley shows no fear
In game 3, I was excited to see Beasley enter the game like a cannon blast. He approached the rim without fear, and it was almost hard to see him in transition on screen as he hustled down the court so quickly to get back on defense.
At 20 points on 5 out of 6 from three, he proved a solidly reliable backup to fill in for the ailing Murray and Barton. What’s more is that he didn’t seem the least bit nervous about the game. It’s as if it were just another regular season game that needed to be handled.
To say that I’m profoundly impressed by Beasley’s growth and poise is an understatement, and I’m hoping he gets more minutes while the Nuggets starting lineup works to shake their playoff jitters.
Game 4 resumes today at 3:30pm MST so I hope to see Denver calm down and take care of business the way we all know they can. They’ve got one more game in San Antonio before they return home and it would be great to see them capture a road win to tie the score again.