After a long offseason, basketball is finally back in the Mile High City. Unfortunately, it did end in a pretty sloppy loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, fans got to see the long awaited comeback of both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Ball Arena erupted with applause when the two of them were announced in the starting lineup before the game, and even more so when they started scoring. Even in the post game, for those two the vibes were riding high. One preseason loss is no reason to feel any different about this team then you did before it.
Jamal Murray is back
Jamal Murray made his return to the hardwood after 539 days yesterday. He put up 10 points, all of which came in the second half. He had some nerves in the first stint he played in the first quarter and they were evident. After missing his first couple shots and a free throw though, he went to the bench and collected himself. In the second half, he looked a lot more comfortable.
He made 4 of his 7 field goal attempts in this game — including a buzzer beater to beat the halftime clock. His shot is still pure, and he had some mighty fine finds as well. After so much time away, it was great to see him look like he hadn’t skipped a beat. He reinforced that after the game saying, “I’m just playing now, man.”
His rust was still there, but he got himself into a zone to close the second quarter. It didn’t seem like he had missed so much time and it was a very encouraging sign for his play moving forward. The preseason play will certainly help him feel more comfortable when it’s time to play in the regular season.
Michael Porter Jr. Didn’t Skip a Beat
The other Nuggets player that the fan base, front office, media, and everyone else was itching to see was Michael Porter Jr. He’s coming back from his third back surgery so there were reasonably concerns about how he might look when he got onto the court again. In a great turn of events though — he looked just like he had at the end of the 2020-21 season.
He didn’t look like he had improved a great deal, but he wasn’t any worse either. He did exactly what you can expect out of Michael Porter Jr. and that was to score buckets. Step back? Yep, he hit one. Contested jumpers? You can bet your bottom dollar! If you had taken this game and told me it was from the end of the 2020-21 season, I’d believe you.
He feels very comfortable in his game, and it’s evident that his confidence is not lacking. He put up a shot nearly every time he touched the ball, and it did work. He shot 5 of 7 from the field and 2 of 4 from beyond the arc in last night’s game. He is still the 6 feet 10 inches shooter that is capable of going for 25 on any given night.
Bench Has Some Wrinkles to Iron Out
The bench had an interesting game tonight. Interesting in the way that you hope to not see it ever again. Bones Hyland had a quick hook in this game, and didn’t look like his normal self. He struggled to create separation and overall didn’t run the bench super well. Michael Malone said after the game that he will be better and so will the second unit.
The second unit is also far from set in stone as after the game, Michael Malone said that everything is a competition. That there are players who think they’re already penciled into the rotation and that’s just not the case.
There were a couple of reserves with good showings tonight in Zeke Nnaji and Ish Smith. Both of whom were mentioned by Michael Malone after the game. He said the Zeke specifically played very hard and will get some run with the second unit in the coming games. Here’s to hoping the Nuggets bench can be better than what they showed tonight.