Denver Nuggets Battle in the Bayou

The talk was about the Denver Nuggets’ Joker and the Pels’ Zion. But a player averaging 8.7 ppg steals the show in New Orleans.

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As much as I and Santiago talked about the deadly trio in New Orleans and the dynamic duo of the Denver Nuggets. It came down to. a battle of the benches in the bayou. The Pelicans’ bench outscored the Nuggets 59-18. You always hear coaches talk about if you contain their best and get beat by their secondary options, you gotta chalk it up to it being their day. But Nuggets Coach Michael Malone was tossed after two technicals with a few minutes to go in the fourth.

Regardless of the antics on the Nuggets bench. It was quite the day for Jose Alvarado. Alvarado came into the day averaging 8.7 pts and 36% from three, an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech. He had also never scored more than 29 points at any level in his life and scored 38 of those 59 pts off the New Orleans bench. Alvarado went 8-11 from three, almost all of the catch-and-shoot variety. He outscored the Nuggets bench by 20 points all by himself.

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Brandon Ingram of New Orleans didn’t play in this contest due to a toe injury. You can live with Zion Williamson putting up a slash of 25 pts/4 ast/6 reb and C.J. McCollum putting up a measly 7 pts/3 ast/6 reb. You got plenty out of Nikola Jokic with a 32 pts/9 ast/16 reb double-double. You got enough from Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, and Bruce Brown.

Unfortunately Jeff Green and Michael Porter Jr. were both still in street clothes. And Bones Hyland was only able to go for 5:00 minutes. You don’t want to make excuses, especially after this Nugget’s loss on Friday to a short-handed Hawks squad. But it is what it is.

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The silver lining, which I’m sure is hard for Denver sports fans to see after watching both active teams struggle offensively in the third quarter and their defense falter when it mattered most. This is only the second time this season Nuggets have lost back-to-back games. Speaking of the third quarter which is the Bermuda triangle for this Nuggets’ squad. The Nuggets had a five-point lead with 5:00 minutes to go in the frame. Then Nikola Jokic went to the bench and the Pelicans went on a 19-4 run.

The Nuggets only made 7 total shots in the 3rd quarter. Graphic courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

The Nuggets starters played well defensively, Jamal Murray had 2 blocks, and Joker 2 steals. Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown combined for 14 total rebounds. The depth of this Denver squad we have touted so much just has not shown up in the last two games. You saw a lot more staggering starters and bench players.

At one point four guards (Murray/Smith/Brown/KCP) were on the floor at the same time. Although I liked what I saw at times with those four on the floor, you are giving up some serious size with that lineup. And there were times when they were forced into bad iso’s because nobody was big enough to set any high screens for the pick and roll. This led to multiple turnovers and bad shots.

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The league’s 2nd best three-point team the Nuggets only went 8-31 from deep as a team. This means they made as many threes as a team as Jose Alvarado did off the Pels’ bench in three times as many attempts. Coach Malone needs his guys MPJ, Bones, and Uncle Jeff back.

He is trying to cover for the lack of offense from the bench by overusing his starters. All four starters played more than 30 mins. With Jokic, Brown, and Gordon all logging over 37 mins. It is way too early in a long season to be having starters on the floor that long, especially when one is coming off a major injury. Those are playoff minutes.

The Denver Nuggets get a chance at a rebound on Tuesday with a home date against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. They will need more than 4 players to show up if they want to avoid wearing a third straight L.

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