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 in the thick of the playoffs. Denver is down 3-2 to the Utah Jazz, and it took extreme efforts from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray for the team to avoid being knocked out in just five games. Due to the games being postponed until the weekend, they’re getting an extra few days to prepare. Their lives are on the line in both of these games, and they’ll have to do whatever they have to in order to come out with a win.
This team has a ton of talent, but they just haven’t been able to string together good performances. Murray put up 50 points in Game 4, and the team lost. In Game 3, they couldn’t stop Utah if they were playing with 10 players. In Game 2, he and Michael Porter Jr. both scored 28, but their defense was lacking along with no scoring help for those two. They need a team effort for 48 minutes.
Like I said before, it’s going to take everything. The return of Gary Harris would dramatically alter this team’s outlook. He gives them a defensive chess piece to deploy against Donovan Mitchell. With the extra time off, maybe he’ll be able to return to the lineup on Saturday. He may not give them much offensively, but that’s not been their main issue in their series. This is how they can get it done.
An Aggressive Jokic
In Game 5, Jokic started the first quarter 8-of-8, including 5-of-5 from 3-point range. He couldn’t miss, even when he threw up a heave from 30 feet with the clock expiring. He was going right at Rudy Gobert, and he was taking his lunch away. In Game 6, he’s going to need to do the same thing. At the start of Game 4, he put his head down to get to the rim. When he got there, it was an easy dunk for him because there isn’t anyone that can slow him down. When Jokic is playing aggressively, it opens up options for the rest of the team.
This is an area that the Nuggets have consistently struggled with in this series. Outside of Gobert, only Joe Ingles stands above 6’4,” and he leaves something to be desired on that end of the floor. Jokic gets the switch on Royce O’Neale, and he goes to work. O’Neale is a great defender, but, at just 6’4” & 226 pounds, he gives up eight inches of height and 30 pounds of weight to Jokic. These are the mismatches he needs to be taking advantage of. When he gets these switches, which happen frequently throughout the game, he needs to go after them. He’s savvy enough to draw fouls, and, if they play him cleanly, he’ll likely get a good shot off over them.
Sell Out On Defense
Down by 11 after a miserable first quarter, the team could easily be out of hustle and emotion to give. Jerami Grant is the type of player that doesn’t let that happen. He gets back on what should be an easy layup for Tony Bradley and stuffs it off the backboard. Those are the plays that get the rest of your team up out of their seats. It shows them that you’re still giving it your all, and you should too. These plays need to be happening the entire game. From the first minute through the 48th minute, every guy needs to be giving every ounce he has on both ends.
Murray has made some strides on defense this year, and that hasn’t stopped in the playoffs despite his offensive workload. Jordan Clarkson has been this team’s second-best offensive weapon behind Mitchell, and he’s put up his fair share of points. Murray gets beat off the dribble, but he sticks with the play. Denver ended up losing this game, but he was still locked in defensively late after a busy night on offense that saw him put up 50 points. When your star point guard signs a new deal and still plays like this, that’s exactly the type of tone setter every team needs.
Don’t Be Selfish
Murray has hit another level on offense at times during this series. We’ve seen him score with ease against even the best defenders Utah has to offer. On this play, he has a center matched up with him. He could isolate and go for the mid-range jumper. Instead, he makes the smart pass to feed Mason Plumlee in the middle of the paint where he then dunks it home. The Jazz have destroyed the Nuggets with exceptional ball movement, and Denver needs to flip the script on them.
Remember when I said that Jokic being aggressive makes life easier for everyone? This play is a clear example of that. Denver is attacking when the ball ends up the hands of Jokic. He gets moving towards the basket, and every Jazz defender crashes towards the paint as quick as possible. As soon as that happens, he finds the wide-open Murray on the wing. The ball moves faster than even the best defenses can. This is the type of play that everyone needs to exhibit, and Jokic is the perfect type of example setter. As long as he’s willing to pass, everyone will follow that lead.
This Nuggets’ team has won two out of five games despite missing two starters. Will Barton has left the bubble, and Harris is still questionable as to whether or not he’ll be in the lineup in Game 6. They need to be preparing as if he won’t. They’ve shown the ability to win at their current strength. It’s going to take a Herculean effort from everyone, but they can get it done.
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.