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.
The Nuggets are now in a 3-1 hole against the LA Clippers, and it’s not looking great. Outside of their win in Game 2, they’ve just looked consistently outmatched. It makes sense when you factor in the Clippers having Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, who, when they’re on, are two of the best players in the NBA. While Denver has Nikola Jokic, he hasn’t gotten consistent help throughout the series.
If they have any hope of completing another 3-1 comeback, they’re going to have to pull off some absolutely special play. They have yet to play a complete game, and they have never won more than two quarters in a game. In fact, in four out of the five games, they have lost three out of the four quarters. They have to play a complete game to have any hope of extending this series.
Today, we’re going to the film to figure out what Denver has been doing well that they need to do more of in the last few games of this series. In the event they can’t extend the series or advance in the playoffs, they need to make these changes heading into next year to set themselves up for future success.
Attacking in Transition
I don’t expect Denver to be like the New Orleans Pelicans or Memphis Grizzlies by playing in transition constantly. However, I do need them to get out on the run more often. When they’re playing with their long athletic lineups, such as the one in the above clip, they can force opposing defenses to be extremely uncomfortable on the run. A group with Michael Porter Jr. and Jerami Grant leading the charge is just impossible to stop with a head of steam towards the rim. The Clippers were a top five defense during the regular season, and they appear to have taken everything to another level with point guard Patrick Beverly leading the charge.
This clip is from the series against the Utah Jazz, but it still serves the same purpose. Grant gets the ball, and he’s thinking about nothing other than getting to the rim. It all comes while the defense is still getting back and trying to get set. When they’re not set, you can take advantage of it, and Denver needs to do that. Playing against a set Clippers’ defense is asking to be stopped due to all of the length they possess.
Change the Guard
If you’re reading this, I know that you’ve seen Porter’s interview that he did following the Wednesday game. Was it maybe the wrong way to go about things? Possibly. Does it show me that this guy wants to win more than anything else? Absolutely. Porter went 5-of-8 and 3-of-4 from 3-point range in game 4, and he played 34 minutes. However, when a guy is that hot, you don’t take the ball out of his hands. If Jokic or Jamal Murray had that stat line at the end of the night, you would say they weren’t aggressive enough. Those two need to be the lead dogs, but Porter needs to be in that conversation on offense. Design sets for him, and put the ball on him to make a shot.
I still think that Millsap belongs on the roster because of the intelligence that he brings to the roster. When he makes plays like this though, it shows me that he doesn’t have the athleticism he used to. He gets hardly any elevation on this drive, and it makes the contest extremely easy for the defender. You can’t allow him to continue to bog down your offense just because of his defensive intelligence. Porter and Grant both have the ability to elevate and make it easier on themselves. Porter is also a much better shooter than Millsap, who has regressed severely since the regular season.
Let Jokic Eat
Coming into this series, I targeted Jokic as the guy that could make the big difference for Denver. The Clippers don’t have any great defensive centers, and they just don’t have a match for Jokic when he gets down in the post. If he wants to bully a center to the bucket, he can, but he can also just get to his spots. On this play, he has Ivica Zubac matched up with him, and there is just nothing he can do. He backs him down, then, when he’s satisfied with his position, he just makes a quick turn to a wide-open look at the basket.
Should Jokic be having this easy of a shot? No. Is there anything the Clippers can do about it to stop him? Also no. He’s just a special player that plays at a different level when he’s engaged. In the previous series, with the Nuggets on the brink of elimination in Game 5, he put together a perfect quarter for 21 points. I’m not saying that he needs that level of play again, but I also think he doesn’t have a choice. He’s the ultimate trump card because no opponent has a center that can stop him. Get him the ball, and get out of the way.
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.