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.
Through two games, the Nuggets have split with the Utah Jazz. In Game 1, they were torched by Donovan Mitchell en route to a 57-point outing from him. After forcing overtime thanks to a flurry of scoring late in the game from Jamal Murray, they were able to outlast with a 135-125 overtime win. In Game 2, the Jazz could do no wrong on offense. They came away with a 124-105 win, and that score made the game appear much closer than it actually was.
If Denver plans to outlast the Jazz in this series, things are going to become more difficult in Game 3 with the return of Mike Conley. Conley will give them a more traditional two-guard lineup while allowing Mitchell to work off the ball more, and it will likely send Juwan Morgan to the bench. If that’s the case, Paul Millsap may be sent to the bench as well due to matchups.
This Denver team is good enough to play strong defense. They’ve done it before, but the personnel was different. For one, Will Barton has left the bubble, and Gary Harris is still not back from his hip injury. They’re going to need to make some changes prior to Game 3, or this series could get flipped on it’s head in a hurry.
More Grant Minutes
I already mentioned that Grant could be moved into the starting lineup as early as Game 3. He brings more athleticism and length to the squad, and he is able to do more on the offensive end. The major key is what he brings on the defensive end. While Millsap is a solid defender down in the post, he can’t switch as well as Grant. On this play, he has no right to be getting to and blocking this ball, but he still gets to it anyway. Those are the type of hustle plays that make a big difference during the playoffs.
This is in the middle of the third quarter from Game 1. Mitchell is cooking Denver, and no one has been able to stop him the entire game. He blows past Nikola Jokic right to the basket. Grant sees he’s in the area around the basket where he can’t draw a charge, so he rises up to swat the ball cleanly off the glass. Millsap likely wouldn’t have the athleticism to make this play, and it could result in a bucket.
Play Porter Through His Lumps
Porter struggled in Game 1 when he was switched onto Mitchell and the other guards. He left something to be desired Game 2 as well, but Michael Malone just has to play him through his issues. On wings, like Rudy Gay in the above clip, he is able to use his size and stay in front of him. The best thing that he brings to the group is his rebounding. He averages 10.3 per 36 minutes. Denver won the rebounding battle in Game 2, and Porter had six of them.
When he crashes the board on the offensive end, he’s not always going to get back on defense right away, but he does give them an extra possession. Extra possessions can help you cut deficits when you’re not shooting as well as you would like to. Like I said before, hustle plays can help you more than normal when the playoffs get started, and that’s the type of energy that Porter is bringing to the floor every night.
Throughout Game 2, there were open looks given up every time down the floor for the Jazz. The reason for those shots all came down to communication or a lack there of. Torrey Craig and Porter should be switching on this play, but, because of Mitchell’s explosive Game 1, they both stay attached to him and give up the open look for Joe Ingles. Ingles and the entire Jazz roster, are too good to be giving up open looks.
This play further plays to the notion that Grant needs to be on the floor more than Millsap. Millsap helps on this play, but he does have the quickness to get back out to the corner which gives up the open look. Jokic and Grant are already in the paint covering their two guys. There isn’t a ton that he can really do inside that they can’t. After the crash by Ingles, he has to hope the ball stays inside. It doesn’t, and Royce O’Neal cashes the easy 3-point shot.
This Nuggets’ team is going to score. That’s not going to be their problem in this series. They have to do better on the defensive end. They have to improve on these things that we discuss today. If they’re unable to do it, we could see the Jazz quickly take another game or two to stress this series in their favor.
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