Even though preseason victories do not count, it’s always nice to get a win. The Nuggets trailed the Suns for the majority of the contest until a late rally from their reserves put them on top. Denver’s defense got off to a slow start in the first quarter by allowing 35 points. The energy appeared to be there from most of the lineup, but the execution and communication appeared to be missing. After the first, Denver’s defense tightened as they did not allow the Suns to score more than 24 points in any other quarter. If the Nuggets want to be a serious contender, they have to compete on the defensive end, and Bruce Brown showed he will be a key piece to their progress.
Bruce Brown will be an integral part of this team
Although the Nuggets allowed way too many points in that first quarter, it was rarely the fault of Bruce Brown. His energy and tenacity on the defensive end are something to witness. It is almost Facu Campazzo like, except he has much more size and trades aggressiveness for patience in the right spots. Denver has struggled and seems to continue to struggle guarding the pick and roll, but Bruce Brown’s actions fighting over screens is beautiful.
Offensively, he shot the ball fairly efficiently as well. He went 4-9 from the field along with 2-5 from three and 2-2 from the free throw line. Late in the game, he took it upon himself to be more physical towards the rack and that energy seemed to transfer itself throughout the lineup. He has the catch-and-shoot game to go along with Joker's pinpoint passing ability, but he also knows when to put the ball on the deck and drive to the lane. He will be an exciting player to watch this season.
Ish Smith can hoop
A notorious Nugget killer joins the dark side, and he showed why the Nuggets valued him in the trade with KCP. He was the high scorer for Denver last night, scoring 17 points on 7-12 shooting along with 7 assists. What I love about his game is the mid-range aspect of it. It is comparable to Monte Morris where when he gets off a screen and is open in the mid-range you can expect that shot to fall. In the most important part of the game, he returned to the mid-range and knocked down two of them from nearly the same spot to put the game on ice.
Bones is expected to take backup point guard duties, but Ish Smith will be a part of this rotation. He is a veteran and somebody you can count on when the starters need a breather and a floor general is needed. When the going got tough last night, Smith was there to ease the pressure, and I expect him to have a similar impact, with limited minutes, when the regular season arrives.
Was it a major concern he struggled last night? No, but it certainly wasn't pleasing to watch. He was the only regular starter to play last night, but he didn't play like a starter. Yes, it's preseason, so wins don't count, but he played like it didn't count. He didn't seem invested, and I think it hurt Denver at times in that game. He had been shooting well in the first couple of games, but last night he shot 2-11 from the field and 1-5 from deep. If it wasn’t for Suns backup guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot with a plus/minus of -9, MPJ would have the game’s worst mark at -7.
I don't expect this type of performance to bleed into the regular season, but this game might be a reality check for Nuggets fans. It doesn't appear that he added too much more to his game this offseason, so his strengths remain shooting the basketball and rebounding. The issue with that is if he has an off-night shooting, can the Nuggets count on him to still have a positive impact on the game? I think his intensity level will increase once the season gets going, and that will bring the types of performances we expect out of him, but he is just so damn talented you really want to see him blossom into an All-Star this year. He certainly has the ability but it is the consistency he needs to achieve such status. Will last night be an anomaly? We will have to wait and see.