If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.
We’re back with another edition of Film Friday, and I thank you for being here. Last week, we took a look at how the Nuggets could win without star center Nikola Jokic in the playoffs. This week, we’re removing the restrictions, and we’re just going to be deciding how Denver is going to get the job done when these playoffs get started.
When the Golden State Warriors were making their runs, they were spreading the floor with more shooters than the defense could cover, and they were switching everything on the defensive end. With the Miami Heat, they were putting shooters around LeBron James while he worked in isolation. For Denver, what is going to be their recipe for success that will put them in the upper echelon of contenders.
The Nuggets are currently viewed as the fourth-best team in the Western Conference, and they have the seventh-best odds to win a championship per Odds Shark. They sound close, but they’re +2200 to win the title compared to +300 odds for the third-ranked LA Clippers. This Nuggets team is tied for the fourth-best record against teams over .500 this season. Enough talking, let’s get into it.
Let Jokic Run The Show
This one seems pretty straight forward, but it still needs to be said. The more that Jokic touches the ball, the more good things tend to happen. For his career, he’s better in every statistical category that you can find. He averages more points, rebounds and assists while shooting a better percentage from every region other than the free-throw line. With his individual scoring and passing ability, teams just can’t afford to leave him alone.
This play isn’t anything overly fancy. Jokic doesn’t make an other-worldly play, and Paul Millsap doesn’t have to do anything special. It’s a simple pass in, and he’s matched up against Boban Marjanović, who is one of the few players in the NBA that can match his size. Despite that, the help defense immediately comes his way to prevent the one-on-one opportunity, but Jokic passes the ball out for the easy 3-point opportunity.
Alright, we all know he’s a supreme passer, but it’s not like he can score right? Wrong. Same game. Same matchup. This time though, Jokic takes it into his own hands to convert for the team. He’ll break this jab-step fadeaway out at least once a game, and it comes through repeatedly. It’s honestly a little crazy how consistent he has become on this specific shot. Having a player like Jokic that you can safely put the ball in their hands to score or find a teammate for a bucket just makes life easier on everyone else.
Win The Bench Minutes
Stars win you titles, but having a good bench makes life so much easier. Monte Morris, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr. and Mason Plumlee is a pretty good group of guys that are spelling your starters, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all four of them were starting for other teams if they weren’t in Denver. As a result, you need to win those few minutes where the two benches are matched up.
Morris gives you a consistent floor general that takes care of the ball when he’s out there with or without Jokic. In this instance, he goes and gets a basket. The bench has a number of guys that can shoot, but Morris, especially with Malik Beasley now in Minnesota, is largely the only true creator that sees regular minutes. If all else fails while the bench is on the floor, they can get him the ball to see what he can create.
These are the plays that separate championship benches from regular benches. Morris has no right to affect this shot, but he gets back and completely blocks it. In a close game like it was at this point, those are the plays that keep you winning at the end. It’s all about hustle and heart. When Michael Malone sees plays like this on film, he sees guys that he’s going to give minutes to over others because of their work ethic.
We have to round everything out with the defensive end of the floor. Outside of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and Warriors in 2018, every single NBA champion has finished the year ranked inside the top 10 in defensive rating. Right now, Denver is sitting at 12th, so they need to elevate at least slightly to make themselves legitimate title contenders.
No one is exempt from competing on the defensive end of the floor. Jokic, Jamal Murray and everyone else has to buy in for a defense to be successful, especially in Malone’s system. When Denver gets lazy, they give up easy baskets. Good teams, like the ones they’ll play in the playoffs, will make them pay for easy buckets, and they will add up in a hurry.
It’s plays like this that fire your team up down the stretch of a game. Murray is this team’s second star, and, after Millsap’s deal expires, he’ll be the second-highest paid player on the team. That doesn’t matter, because he’s still bodying up his man in the fourth quarter of a tight game. When you’re in the middle of a Game 7 needing to get your home crowd into a game for momentum, this is the play that’s going to do it. Plus, when you see someone like Murray, who’s generally an offensive guy, making that play. It means even more to everyone else.
For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.