The Denver Nuggets, by all accounts, had a successful December. Although they did lose 5 of 6 games at one point to start the month, they followed that up with a 7-game winning streak. This month provided a great opportunity for the Nuggets to start accumulating wins, as they played 9 home games and many of their games were against teams with a losing record. Still, the Nuggets showed that they can take care of business, which is encouraging given the fact that they are now about to enter a month in which they play 10 road games. It was also an important month for certain players, including Nikola Jokic who looks like the Joker of last season, and Michael Porter Jr., who earned his first start of his career. Now it’s time to see what 2020, and a new decade, has in store for our favorite team.
Record in December: 10-6
Overall record: 23-10
Game of the Month: Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns
The Denver Nuggets had a nail biter on December 23rd against the Phoenix Suns. Although they had a fairly comfortable lead in the first half, the game was a close one down the stretch. With the Nuggets down three, 108-105, Jokic hit a clutch three pointer to tie things up. Then, with the score still 108-108, Jamal Murray hit an extremely clutch shot of his own with a little less than 30 seconds on the clock to put his team up three, 111-108. When I was watching this game, I thought to myself, “Game winner for Jamal.” I spoke too soon, as Devin Booker came back on the other end and hit a clutch three of his own to once again tie the game. On the other end, with a little more than 25 seconds left on the game clock, Murray let the clock expire until about 7 seconds. Then, he drained a step-back jump shot at the last second, leaving only 2.5 seconds left on the clock for the Suns. After Jerami Grant blocked a game winning attempt by Booker, the game was in the bag for the road team. This game showed just how clutch the Nuggets’ two best players can be, providing fans with even more hope for the future.
Highlight of the Month: Nikola Jokic with the double crossover against the Sacramento Kings
Denver Nuggets’ point guard, I mean, center Nikola Jokic had the highlight of the month with a double, behind-the-back crossover move against the Sacramento Kings that he used to get to the basket and execute a finger roll at the rim. It was a beautiful play, and one that you most certainly do not expect from a team’s 7-foot center. It was a play that has circulated quite a bit on social media, and it will most likely go down as one of the most impressive plays from the big man this season.
Player of the month: Nikola Jokic
After a slow start to the season, Jokic has officially come on strong in December. After only averaging 15 points and 15.8 points a game in October and November, he has raised that average to 20.8 in the month of December. He’s doing so largely because his field goal percentage has improved across the board, especially from the three-point line. He shot 23.6% in November from long range and raised that to 39.3% in December. No game was more impressive than the one against the Memphis Grizzlies, when he scored a season-high 31 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Nuggets are officially playing through Jokic again, and it’s been a big reason why they have won so many games this month. Furthermore, Jokic reached a major milestone this month after notching his 34th triple double against the Phoenix Suns, moving up to 10th in all-time triple doubles, behind such players as Oscar Robertson, Russell Westbrook, and Wilt Chamberlain. Since then, he’s had one more triple double, bringing his total to 35. The Joker continues to collect accolades as his career progresses.
Story of the Month: Michael Malone gets contract extension
This month, the Nuggets announced that they were extending Head Coach Michael Malone through the 2022-23 season, a two-year extension from his previous contract. This decision truly represents the confidence that the organization has placed in Malone and what he will be able to do with and for this team going forward. The Nuggets under Malone have been able to improve every single season and they have now established themselves as the one of the best defensive teams in the league, which still feels odd to say. The future is very bright for this young team, and fans should rest easy knowing that they are under the guidance of Malone for at least the next three seasons.
Surprise of the month: Michael Porter Jr. gets his first NBA start
To start the season, Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets’ hyped up rookie, has struggled to find consistent minutes. One game he’ll play 15 minutes, the next 5, the next game he may not see the court at all. It’s hard to blame Coach Malone, however, considering that there’s so many proven players at his position that deserve minutes, including Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap. So when news broke that Millsap and Gary Harris were both out of the game against the Sacramento Kings on December 29th, many fans began to get excited that perhaps this was the game that Porter would get his opportunity to play extended minutes.
Indeed, Malone gifted Porter, and fans, with the first start of the rookie’s career. And MPJ did not disappoint. In just 26 minutes, he scored 19 points on an efficient 8/10 shooting and also notched 6 rebounds (and 0 turnovers to boot!) It was a glimpse into the future for Nuggets fans, as he showed everybody what a true asset he can be when given the opportunity.
Grade for the month: B
What’s new on Denver Stiffs:
- Can’t get enough MPJ? Check out this film review by Daniel Lewis, showcasing his strengths and weaknesses that he has displayed in his limited minutes so far this season.
- In this piece, Gage Bridgford goes through each player on the team and points out what his New Year Resolution should be on the court. Want to know how each player can improve? Check it out!
- Here’s another film study, this time by Ryan Blackburn on Nikola Jokic and how he performed in the month of December.
- This article takes a look at Jerami Grant’s transition to the Nuggets, full of quotes from Grant himself as well as Michael Malone.
- Last but not least, check out Zach Mikash’s nostalgic piece reviewing the past decade of Nuggets basketball. He gives out awards such as the MVP of the decade and “Defensive Player of the Decade.” Which players of the last 10 years made the cut?