By Marc Mandell
Boy oh boy was I wrong, huh?! The Nuggets beat the snot out of the Warriors, and looked tired and logy against the Timberwolves. Meanwhile, Nikola got an invitation to the All-Star game, and Denver managed to hold on to the 8th seed in the west.
First things first, congratulations to Nikola Jokic on getting an invitation to the All-Star Game! He has played his way into a leading role for the Nuggets, and our hearts. He is by far the tone-setter for Denver, one of the most exciting players Denver has had in a few years, and has earned the trip to the All-Star Game. Though it came at the cost of an injured Joel Embiid. Here are the highlights from the Jokers game against the best team in the league. Just a sample of what got him the nod to this weekends festivities. Take a look…
If he wasn’t on national sports radar before, he will be by Monday.
Now on to the two games that were played this week. Both were in Denver, and they didn’t turn out quite how most of us thought they would, did they? Uhh, no. No, they did not.
GSW 110 – 132 DEN
Turns out, I was completely wrong! And so was everyone else! Seriously, no way you can tell me with a straight face that you thought Denver was going to beat, let alone smash the best team in the NBA?! Every single Nuggets player was on point. Everyone was sinking every shot they took. That’s not even the best part, they only had 9 freaking players dressed!! 9!
The starting line up consisted mostly of players the fans know, Barton/Nelson/Jokic and Harris. There was, however, a little known Spaniard name Juanco Hernangomez. If you watched the game like I did, by the time the second quarter was halfway through, every time the ball left Hernangomez’s hands, I was standing up with my hands in the air signaling a 3-point score. Startling my wife, which is always her favorite. I couldn’t believe how well he was shooting.
So good was Hernangomez, he was shooting 66.7% from the three point line, 6/9, and racked up 27 points in all. From a guy who was only playing a couple of minutes in games that were out of hand, one way or the other, he made a statement with that game. Will “Thrill” Barton tacked on another 24 points and 10 rebounds, putting both himself and Hernangomez in the double-double column. Jokic had 17 points, 12 assists and 21 freaking rebounds! Jameer Nelson had 23 points, and Murray off the bench had 14.
It wasn’t just offense that Denver displayed so much of, it was a little defense too. They pressed the ball, kept forcing Golden State to make tough decisions and ran the ball when they got a turnover. It didn’t hurt that Curry had a horrific night, well it didn’t hurt the Nuggets that is.
Kevin Durant had a good night, both on the court and when heckled leaving the court at the end of the game. He had the last word, but not the last laugh. Though I imagine, if things remain the same by the time the playoffs roll around, his last comment to that fan will probably be true. I can’t see the Warriors making the same mistake again. That was uncharacteristic for them.
It was a great game, and it was really fun to watch. Never thought the Nuggs would get it done, but it sure did taste nice didn’t it. Signature win for Denver.
MIN 112 – 99 DEN
Aaaaand, the high was over. What a turnaround the Nuggets showed huh? Just two days after the best win of the season, they came out with heavy legs, struggled to move the ball, in both passing and simply getting the ball down the court. It was so hard to see, given the events of Monday’s display. This time it was the other team on the back-to-back. It was the other team that should have been tired and worn out. This, however, was not the case.
Wiggins went ballistic, with his 40 points in nearly 40 minutes. Karl-Anthony Towns took care of the double-double department and Nemanja Bjelica provided the defense. The Timberwolves just seemed to want it more than the Nuggets did. Perhaps Denver was coasting a bit, perhaps it was just a bad night. Either way, it wasn’t the best way to go into the break.
I’m not going to rationalize it either. Not with the injuries that Denver has had, not on the schedule. The win against Golden State demonstrated that the Nuggets can do it. They obviously have the talent. The only question that remains is this: can they be consistent?
Well, Coach Malone has until the 23rd to figure that out. That’s when Denver has to travel to face a former friend George Karl and the Sacramento Kings.
How do you feel about that Nuggets so far? Can they lock down the 8th seed, maintain this level of excitement and maybe make a push in the playoffs? Or will they sputter out? You let me know what you think.
Thanks again for reading and I will chat with you all a little later on.