No Gallo. No Mudiay. No problem. From the opening tip, the Denver Nuggets took it to the Phoenix Suns in the only preseason game at the Pepsi Center. Playing with a defensive intensity that hasn’t been seen from the Nuggets in the last two years, Denver harassed and pestered Phoenix into 15 turnovers, while holding them to 33% shooting from the field. Denver’s dominance extended to the boards, outrebounding the Suns 62-40. Outside of a brief run in the fourth quarter, Denver controlled the game from start to finish. Nothing showed this domination more than a third quarter technical foul on Markieff Morris thenTyson Chandler begging for, and earning, an ejection for two techs soon after.

While it was the team's defensive fortitude that stood out, Denver also showed a great willingness to share the ball on the offensive side. The ball rarely stuck in anyone's hands, either flashing around the perimeter faster than Phoenix could hope to rotate or finding the open man off of a series of pick and rolls. Although the Nuggets struggled to hit from deep (8-32 from three), those shots were most times wide open and came in the flow of the offense.

What really drove the offense, though, was the ferocity with which all the bigs – Faried, Lauvergne, and Jokic – attacked the paint as roll men in the pick and roll. All night, it felt that the Suns had no answer for the pinpoint passing of Jameer Nelson as these three would flash down the lane. Coach Michael Malone summed it up nicely, “Good things happen when you roll, and it’s such an unselfish play because when I roll, I may not get the ball, but just by rolling, I’m creating a shot for a teammate. And every time, when we show film, with Joffrey, with Kenneth, with JJ, with Nikola…when they roll, good things happen for us.” Malone further said that he expects this team to rely on the pick and roll much more than on spot up shooting.

Although many Nuggets players had excellent performances tonight (Wilson Chandler with 19 rebounds, Jameer Nelson with 12 assists, Will Barton with 19pts and 10rbs), two players stood out:

Kenneth Faried: Since he entered the league in 2012, Faried has shown a nose for the ball (especially on the offensive end), a motor that just won’t quit, and an instinctive ability to finish around the rim. What he’s never shown in that time is a consistent defensive acumen. He’s always had the tools to be at least a good defender, but whether due to coaching, a lack of focus, a lack of desire, or some combination of all three, Kenneth has never put those physical gifts to good use. When Shaw was hired as coach, many, including me, felt that he could reach Faried and get him to buy in on the defensive end – taking him from an exciting, fast-breaking, athlete to a more complete basketball player. We all know how that turned out. This preseason, Faried has shown a greater focus on the defensive end. He’s been no worse than decent in any of the games, and pretty darned good against the Clippers and Warriors. Tonight, he went a step beyond that. Faried was literally (no, not literally) everywhere on the defensive end. He not only held Markieff Morris to 3-13 shooting and goaded him into a tech, but also showed a court awareness in his help defense that I’ve never seen from Faried before. All this preseason, we’ve been celebrating the return of the “Manimal.” If this play continues, we could be celebrating the emergence of “Kenneth Faried – All Star forward.”

Nikola Jokic: Whenever Jokic is in the game, I just marvel at how he instinctively knows where to be and what play to make – both offensively and defensively. The silky smooth Serb has a touch on his shot that very well might be unrivaled among his teammates. He also shows a court vision rare for a big man, and a willingness to throw the extra pass. Once he gains a bit of strength, he could be a beast for years to come. Nuggets Nation should be excited about Jokic now, but even more so for the future.

Post game and Highlights:


Opponent's take


Reminder: Stiffs Night Out Season Kickoff 10/28

Please join us for the next Stiffs Night Out on Wednesday, October 28th at 6pm as the Nuggets take on the Rockets in Houston to kickoff the 2015-16 NBA season. The event will take place at Jake’s Sports & Spirits at 3800 Walnut Street and Jake’s will be serving happy hour drinks until 7pm and 50-cent wings all night long! We will also play Nuggets trivia for prizes, including Nuggets game tickets. See you on the 28th!


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