The Denver Nuggets have quietly moved into 2nd place in the West, just a game back of Phoenix. Being 8-5 on the road after beating the Clippers in L.A. is a big reason why.Embed from Getty Images
I’m sure many will want to put an asterisk next to the Denver Nuggets win Friday night in L.A. After all both of the Clippers biggest stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were both in street clothes. The reason I reject that caveat is this Nuggets squad has had an infuriating habit of playing up, or down, to their opponents level. Friday night, despite missing one of their stars (Michael Porter Jr.) and best bench player (Bones Hyland) was a buck in that trend.
In the last two weeks we have watched this Nuggets team lose their first home game against a below average Knicks squad. Then lose 4 of 5 starters due to COVID and other illnesses in Dallas yet pull out an improbable victory over an almost fully healthy Mavericks team on the road. Then give Detroit their first road win despite all those stars returning. Only to bounce back with consecutive wins on the road against the Thunder and Clippers. So I don’t care who was or wasn’t on the court for Los Angeles, the Nuggets needed this win to improve to 12-7, first in the Northwest Division, and second in the Western Conference. They are only .5 games back of the 12-6 Phoenix Suns.Embed from Getty Images
There were no triple-doubles, even though Nikola Jokic had a 19 pt/10 reb double-double, the burden was spread around the Nuggets stars on the court. I just told you about Joker, Jamal Murray had 21 pts/9 asts/6 rebs, and Aaron Gordon lead all scorers while staffing every stat column with 29 pts/7 rebs/3 asts/2 stls/2 blks. Air Gordon was his best self against L.A. and it helped the Denver Nuggets to absolutely dominate beyond the final score of 114-104 would lead you to believe.
Even despite a typical poor 3rd and average 4th quarter that actually led L.A. to outscore Denver by two points in the second-half. You never really felt the ending was in question. John Wall lead all Clippers in scoring with 23 off the bench. No L.A. starter scored more than 16 with three not even cracking double digits. Only Marcus Morris and Terance Mann accomplished that for the Clippers.Embed from Getty Images
As you seen above, Nuggets were one Joker free throw made from three starters cracking 20. That starting five included Bruce Brown with MPJ out. That means the nuggets are now 6-2 with Brown in the starting lineup. I love Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and what he brings but I still believe the Denver Nuggets best-5 includes Bruce not KCP. Pope has been lights out from three still shooting an absurd 49.4% from deep. But Bruce is no slouch at 38.7%, where the biggest difference comes is in the paint, both offensively and defensively. With Bruce starting the Nuggets average more than 60 points in the paint per game. That drops to less than 50 with him coming off the bench. There is also an almost 20 point swing in how many points opponents score in the paint against the Nuggets starters with/without Bruce.
I don’t think it’s disrespectful to say KCP is best served off the bench, salary is secondary to winning. Bruce brings a hustle and controlled chaos to this squad no one else can match. I have a fever, and the only prescription is more Downtown Bruce Brown. He’s not just a hustler, he’s a closer with a killer instinct the Nuggets have lacked outside of peak Blue Arrow since they started this journey during a Taco Bell commercial. He leads all Nuggets in 4th quarter minutes with 128, number 2 is Joker at 107. Some may say I’m crazy if they just look at the boxscore and see his slash of 8 pts/4 asts/4 rebs/1 stl. But you can’t just watch the highlights and be able to appreciate what this man brings to the team.Embed from Getty Images
This team was dealt a tremendous blow when multiple viruses wrecked the locker room heading to Dallas. But the way they have responded as they slowly get healthy and still have Murray and Porter on pitch-counts after both missed all of 2021-2022. The way Bruce has been able to cover every hole that has ruptured in the Nuggets flagship so far this season has earned him a bigger role even when they are bak to full strength. Coach Malone said it best per Mike Singer of The Denver Post “Some guys are in the foxhole with you, some guys, like they’ve got one foot in, one foot out,” Malone said after the game. “Bruce is, he’s all the way in.”
You may ask, “Who takes his place off the bench? The natural answer might be, well who he replaces, KCP. But I posit that being a much bigger human in Vlatko Cancar. He does all you get from Bruce but with a less consistent shot. I believe Vlatko can iron out that shot if just given time on the hardwood. Here’s to hoping the Denver Nuggets are “all the way in” with Bruce as they head back home for their first home back-to-back of the season against the last-place Houston Rockets. And to them finally being over that roller-coaster of matching the opponents level and playing to their potential on a consistent basis.
vs Houston Rockets at 7:00 PM MST/9:00 PM EST on November 28 & 30.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Follow us on Twitter
Like our Facebook page.
We are affiliated with some companies/links on this page and may receive a commission if you make a purchase through them. Prices are subject to change. Consider supporting the dream!