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Mile Highs and Lows: A Recap of the Denver Nuggets in February

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The Nuggets have still not played up to their potential yet this season, but that doesn’t mean this past month was not full of amazing accomplishments and milestones for several players

NBA: Washington Wizards at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Although this was a shorter month, there were still plenty of storylines and surprises for the Denver Nuggets in February. The month started off rocky with three straight losses, but three straight wins quickly followed, including one against the Los Angeles Lakers on Valentine’s Day. The Nuggets then embarked on a four-game road trip, and unfortunately, they only came away with one win. However, Jamal Murray had a career night during the third game of this road trip, so it was definitely a win to remember for Nuggets fans.

To end the month, the Nuggets got an important win against division rival Portland Trail Blazers, but they were unable to follow it up in the game against the Washington Wizards, losing once again to a below .500 squad. The last game of the month, however, was a blowout win against the Oklahoma City Thunder in which the offense really clicked and all of the players were able to get involved. Now, the Nuggets look ahead to the last few games before All-Star break before tackling the second part of the season. Let’s hope the Nuggets can finally turn the corner and take care of the games they’re supposed to on their way to climbing up the standings prior to the postseason.

Record in February: 6-7

Overall record: 18-15

Game of the Month: Denver Nuggets (120) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (103), 2/19/21

50-point games are becoming quite the regular occurrence in the NBA these days. However, Murray made history with his 50-point game this month against the Cleveland Cavaliers when he managed to go the entire game without shooting a single free throw. Instead, he scored all of his points on incredible shot after incredible shot with unbelievable efficiency. He finished the game making 21/25 shots including 8/10 three pointers. This game was just another example of how Murray has taken his game to another level this month.

Highlight of the Month: R.J. Hampton’s impressive dunk against Cavaliers

R.J. Hampton has had a couple of dunks this month that have dropped jaws. Perhaps the most impressive one came against the Cavaliers when he slammed it home against Cedi Osman. The dunk created quite the celebration on the bench, and it’s really great to see a rookie being supported in such a big way when he gets an opportunity to showcase his talent. Hopefully Hampton will continue to earn playing time for the remainder of the season so we can get more plays like this.

Player(s) of the month: Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray

Although I usually try to pick one just one player for this category, the duo of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic were absolutely outstanding in February for the Nuggets and deserve to share this honor, in my opinion. Jokic, to no surprise, has continued to play at an MVP level to lead the team. He’s doing absolutely everything you could expect from him, and more. There is no better example than the game against the Boston Celtics on February 16th, in which Jokic scored 43 points on 16/23 shooting, to go along with 5 assists and 6 rebounds. His play so far this season has earned him the incredible accomplishment of being named an NBA all-star starter for the first time in his career. His numbers for this month certainly speak for themselves.

Jokic hasn’t been doing it all by himself this month, however. Jamal Murray has really come on strong this month and showed flashes of the player he was in the bubble last year. He also reached a very impressive career milestone with his 50-point game against the Cavaliers on February 19th. He has been far more consistent this month with his shooting, as displayed in his statistics for the month. He’s also had several clutch moments in February as well, including in the heartbreaking loss to the Washington Wizards on February 17th when he hit two straight three-pointers to give the Nuggets a chance to win before Bradley Beal spoiled the comeback attempt. I think it’s safe to say that if Murray and Jokic continue playing at this level for the remainder of the regular season and going into the playoffs, they’re bound to right the ship as a team eventually.

Story of the Month: Injuries plague the Nuggets, but other players get a chance to shine

Injuries were unfortunately a big storyline in the month of February for the Nuggets, with four of the Nuggets’ rotation players missing extended time due to ailments. JaMychal Green has missed the last four games due to a shoulder injury and P.J. Dozier just recently made his return after being out the whole month with a hamstring injury. Paul Millsap has missed the last 7 games due to a knee injury that he sustained in the Lakers game. Gary Harris missed the first 7 games of the month with an adductor strain before returning against the Washington Wizards and then subsequently missing the following five games due to the same injury. Finally, Will Barton missed several games for personal reasons this month as well.

Michael Malone has had to get extremely creative with his lineups with such a depleted roster, and this has undoubtedly turned some winnable games into losses this month. Instead of veterans like Millsap, Green and Barton, the Nuggets have put their trust in rookies like Zeke Nnaji and R.J. Hampton to fill the void. However, while this has has caused some challenges this month, it has also brought about some very pleasant surprises...

Surprise of the month: Zeke Nnaji and R.J. Hampton make a serious case for a spot in the rotation

While it can sometimes be tough to look on the bright side when your team is being plagued by injuries and is preventing them from reaching their true potential, in the Nuggets’ case, there have definitely been several bright spots this month that have come about as a result of these injuries. In their win against the Los Angeles Lakers, rookie Zeke Nnaji had a coming out party of sorts. He was practically automatic from the three-point line, hitting 4/5 three pointers, and he finished with 16 points and 3 rebounds. Nnaji has displayed great three-point shooting all season, even in his limited minutes, and now that he’s become a more regular part of the rotation due to injuries, he’s showcased other parts of his game as well. He’s shown that he can be a very solid wing defender and rebounder, as well. He’s impressed so much that many doubt if Malone will reasonably be able to send him back to the bench once Green and Millsap make their returns.

R.J. Hampton is another rookie making the most of his opportunity this month. While he hasn’t had a 16-point explosion yet, he’s shown incredible poise in his first rotation minutes on the team. He’s shown good basketball IQ on both sides of the court and really impressive athleticism as well. It’s clear that the Nuggets have a guard with great potential in Hampton.

Grade for the month: C

What’s new on Denver Stiffs:

The most recent mailbag has Ryan Blackburn diving into questions such as which team presents the best and worst matchups for the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs, Michael Malone being on the hot seat if the Nuggets can’t match their postseason success from last season, and Michael Porter Jr’s future with the Nuggets

This month saw the 10-year anniversary of the Nuggets trading Carmelo Anthony, and Zach Mikash takes a look back at all of the ramifications for the involved parties that resulted from this blockbuster trade

In this piece, Ryan Blackburn highlights the ways in which Zeke Nnaji and Facundo Campazzo are making a case for more playing time

The second half of the schedule for the Nuggets was released, and this article breaks down what to expect going forward the rest of the regular season

Jamal Murray has had an amazing month, and Ryan Blackburn takes a look at all of the ways his game has improved from years past

In this article, Gage Bridgford dives into the ways in which Michael Porter Jr’s game can improve

Brandon Ewing makes an argument in this piece for R.J. Hamton and Zeke Nnaji becoming a permanent part of the rotation for the Nuggets