Denver Nuggets star rookie Michael Porter Jr. has proven himself to be a player who prides himself on his play, often offering candid reflections on the improvements he needs to make.
This was first seen after the team’s first scrimmage in the NBA bubble, as he told Nuggets head coach Michael Malone to keep his faith in him after an underwhelming performance against the Miami Heat. After criticizing his “energy, effort and enthusiasm” against the Heat, where he tallied just 11 points and 3 rebounds in 25 minutes, he bounced back with 37 points and 12 rebounds against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Denver’s next game.
His subsequent performances served to make him a breakout star in the NBA bubble, as he finished the seeding games with averages of 22.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game while shooting 55.1% from the field and 42.2% from 3-point range.
In the Nuggets’ first postseason game, Porter had an underwhelming game and was clearly out of rhythm. This was primarily due to the lack of easy shots he was able to generate and his teammates not looking for him as often as they were during the seeding games.
As Porter succinctly noted, the level of defensive intensity is much different in the playoffs (per The Denver Post’s Mike Singer):
“In the playoffs, it’s all about defense... The defensive intensity is way up. So being locked in every possession and really realizing every possession matters (is important).”
So after scoring 13 points on 38.5% shooting in Game 1, MPJ more than doubled his points total in Game 2. Porter was one of Denver’s few bright spots in their blowout loss, as he scored 28 points on 58.8% shooting from the field. Defensively, Porter’s effort on the defensive end was undeniable, as he would make it hard for Jazz sharpshooter Joe Ingles to get off shots.
However, Porter was less than enthused by his point total, saying that “ points doesn’t really mean anything when you get beat” (per The Denver Post’s Andy Yamashita). Porter would add that “I don’t think I played the best game I could play... There are a lot of areas I’ve got to improve on, some adjustments I’ve got to make, as well as the rest of the team.”
Game 3 and beyond
With his focus and commitment to improving, there’s yet to be any evidence that he won’t continue to get better in this series. Individually, he seems interested in generating more offense for himself in Game 3 and to be quicker on his defensive rotations. Due to his size and skillset, he certainly could have even more of an impact than he had in Game 2.
He’s clearly been feeling out the game in what’s his first playoff experience but he isn’t lacking in confidence. Now that he’s gotten a fair idea of what to expect, more can be expected from the budding star moving forward.