The Nuggets won against the team that swept them in the playoffs last year. They have started the season on the right foot. The NBA schedule doesn’t allow teams to marinate in good — or bad — feelings for long. Later today, the Nuggets will take on the San Antonio Spurs. They have had a one sided history since the Nuggets beat the Spurs in the first round in 2018-19.
The Nuggets have a 4-1 record against the Spurs since the 2019-20 season. Nikola Jokic has averaged 26 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game, and 10.6 assists per game against the Spurs in those same contests. More or less; the Nuggets have dominated the Spurs since the playoffs a few seasons ago.
The question for tonight is whether or not the Nuggets can continue that trend. There are a few questions about the Nuggets, and there are a few concerns as well. There were signs of issues that I’ll be interested to see what Malone does to address.
As for the Nuggets’ opponent; the Spurs are coming off of a blowout 123-97 win against the Orlando Magic — a true title contender. It was a team effort with seven players getting into double digit points. Sophomore Devin Vassell looked really good, leading the Spurs with 19 points on 8-12 shooting from the field and 3-4 from behind the arc. He also dished out 5 assists. It was an all around team game, and that will probably be the norm for the Spurs throughout the entire season.
Who: Denver Nuggets vs San Antonio Spurs
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, CO
When: 7:00 PM MST
How to Watch: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough to not have billionaires fighting over whether or not you should be able to watch the Nuggets for one more zero or not)
Three Things to Watch
What does Malone do with the bench?
In the first half against the Suns, the Nuggets’ bench struggled mightily. The starters were the Good, and the bench was the Bad and the Ugly. The Nuggets went from up 11 when the bench came in to down 16 when the came out.
However, once Will Barton subbed in with the bench unit in the second half; everything turned around. Thrill really unlocked that unit offensively and was a key in winning against the Suns. He knocked down shots, set up his teammates for shots, and overall was just great. If he can keep that up, there’s no doubt in my mind that he should be the starter that staggers with the bench unit.
There was notable absence from the bench though. That being fan favorite Bones Hyland. With Malone opting to put veteran Austin Rivers out there instead. There was uproar about this decision from fans during the game, and I happen to be in the camp of Bones should be playing. Now Malone might know more than you and me — with him being an NBA head coach and all. But in reality, this could have just been to not have Bones start his career against one of the NBA’s elite in Chris Paul. If you remember a few years ago, Emmanuel Mudiay made his debut against Chris Paul and the Clippers; it was horrific. Malone may have just wanted Bones to not have the same fate.
So, I’d anticipate some changes in the bench unit. Whether that be Malone staggering Barton in the first half, or having Bones be a spark plug off the bench; we’ll just have to wait and see. I just hope we don’t see the bench unit who couldn’t score at all Wednesday again.
Is Michael Porter Jr’s passing legit?
Michael Porter Jr against the Suns tied a career high in assists with 5. This is constant with his preseason performance where he had a 6 assist game, and his decision making looked vastly improved. Like in this possession; last year he shoots that, but now he dumps it off to Jokic for an easy layup.
I’d like to see MPJ keep up this kind of decision making. Ones where he’s helping the team in other ways than scoring. Michael Porter the playmaker is not something I thought I’d be writing about this season, but it’s a welcomed surprise none the less.
Can Aaron Gordon actually shoot well?
Last night, Gordon only had one three point attempt, but it was a good looking one. He has worked on his jumper a lot this offseason, and it looks like it may have paid off. His jumper looks a lot smoother this season. Just for a visual, here’s the one three he had last night (and another pass from MPJ).
I’d like to see him be at least a league average shooter, and he has a lot of positive indicators to say that he’ll be a better shooter this year. If he can keep it up, that makes him an even more valuable glue guy.