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Denver Nuggets Film Friday: Why doesn’t this happen every night?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Well, that was a hell of a game last night wasn’t it? The Nuggets scored a season-high 140 points while shooting an absolutely insane 62.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range. It didn’t require any overtime periods, and Jeff Green led all Nuggets’ players in minutes at 30:27 for the game. Following an absolutely horrid meltdown to the LA Clippers on Tuesday night when they gave up a 25-point lead, this was exactly what Denver needed.

I understand that a team isn’t going to shoot over 60 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range in a night. This was just the second game in NBA history where a team shot at least 60 percent from the field and 50 percent or better from 3-point range while attempting at least 40 3-point shots, with the other being the Utah Jazz in April of last year. Denver isn’t going to shoot this well every night, but what made last night so special?

Was it just a simple matter of bad defense by Portland? They were down multiple starters, and they’re already 30th in defensive rating this year. In Denver’s top five scoring outings this season, two of the five have come against the Trail Blazers. What was this offense doing last night that had them scoring at such a high level, and is it something that they can replicate moving forward? Let’s take a look.

Take The Better Shot

Two good things happen on this play that don’t always occur for the Nuggets or any other team for that matter. Aaron Gordon begins his drive, and he immediately senses the double team coming from behind him. Once Ben McLemore commits to him, he wastes no time in flipping the ball over his shoulder to Will Barton. Barton has a ton of space as he’s stepping into his shot behind the arc. However, rather than forcing up the triple, he sidesteps the defender who’s attempting to close out on him to dribble in and get the easy look at a mid-range jumper. Rather than settling for the 3-pointer, even while leading by 23, Barton makes the smart play to get a better shot.

Unlike Barton on the previous play, Facundo Campazzo probably would have gotten his shot swatted into the fourth row if he put it up. Robert Covington is closing out on him hard, and he sees all of the open space behind him. He dribbles around him, and, rather than drive headfirst into the center awaiting him under the rim, he settles for the jumper just short of the free-throw line. Playing with a lead is less stressful than playing from behind, especially when your opponent is this short-handed, but there is something to be said to constantly be looking for the best possible shot on each possession.

Double Teams Mean Someone Is Open

A large portion of this success obviously comes down to the second player knocking down the open shot, but, when you’re getting open looks like these, there’s no excuse to not make the majority of your attempts. Nikola Jokic is the best on the team and one of the best in the league at passing out of double teams. The main reason is because he sees them so often. He catches the ball near the free-throw line and begins to back down the defender. When he feels the second defender come his way, he immediately whips the ball to the wide open Austin Rivers who knocks down the corner triple.

This play is important for a couple of different reasons. One of the chief ones is that the rookie Bones Hyland makes the smart play to pass to his teammate rather than forcing up a contested shot, which is something he did a few times in last night’s game. He gets the ball on the left part of the arc and starts working on his defender. When Facu’s defender shades over to try and help on Hyland, he overcommits, and Hyland has the sense of mind to hit Facu, who knocks down the open shot. If you can read that a double team is coming your way, you can make the early read to find an open shooter to give your team a great chance at scoring, even if the defense rotates over to the open shooter, because they’ll now be scrambling to cover everyone else on the floor.

Get Jokic Away From The Basket

Before you stop reading, hear me out. I’m very well aware that Jokic is one of the best offensive centers in the game, and his work around the rim is incredible. However, sitting him down on the block near the basket can clog things up for other guys on the floor. Jokic can hit mid-range jumpers or back guys down if he needs to, but bringing him out to the 15 to 20-foot range on the floor gives room for cutters because the center is drawn away from the rim. On this play, Jokic catches the ball just short of the 3-point line with Jusuf Nurkic all over him. The paint is nearly completely empty with no one having more than one foot in the area. Aaron Gordon reads this, and cuts to a spot underneath where he’s wide open. After the defenders go by him, he gets the easy dunk finish. With Jokic’s passing and mid-range shooting ability, he doesn’t have to be isolated to the block to be effective, and the team should work to get him more opportunities from mid-range to work.

This is an acrobatic play by Barton, who needed it after a quiet last few games, but it’s set up by Jokic’s positioning on the floor. Nurkic isn’t the most fleet-footed center, and he knows that he can’t fully commit to Barton without leaving Jokic wide open for an easy jump shot. This leaves him in no man’s land, and Barton is able to finagle his way to the rim for the reverse layup. If Jokic is operating closer to the paint, Nurkic is likely able to slide over and alter the shot or deter it altogether. Instead, because of where Jokic is on the floor, Barton is free and clear to score. Why can’t they do that every night throughout every game?

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.