The Denver Nuggets welcome the Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks to the Pepsi Center for a Sunday night tilt.
The Denver Nuggets come into the game losers of two straight but still 9-3 on the season. The most recent loss, to the streaky Brooklyn Nets illustrated that there’s something fundamentally missing with the Nuggets offensive performances.
If we look at Nikola Jokic over those two contests he scored four points to go along with four assists and seven rebounds in Memphis on Monday.
Denver lost by two, 89-87.
On Wednesday, Jokić scored 37 points, grabbed 21 boards and handed out three assists. Also, he had two blocks and a steal.
Denver lost by two, 112-110.
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In-between, there was the fine the NBA handed down for comments Nikola made after the Chicago Bulls overtime win. The fine and the public shaming of Jokic has been well-covered,, it’s unfortunate that all that had to land on a kind, sensitive young man.
From our observation, Nikola is out-of-sorts. His strength and what we’ve seen him do so proficiently over the last four seasons is to elevate the play of those around him. He is masterful at getting teammates involved, finding them open looks or easy lay-ins. When it’s right, the Nuggets can drop 120 in a heartbeat. When it’s not, too much pressure falls to the standout Serb.
There’s been talk (and statistical support) that Jokic’s game doesn’t work with Torrey Craig and that Will Barton‘s absence is a large driver to Denver’s early struggles. That logic seems a bit backward, Craig’s game doesn’t work with Jokic. Semantics, maybe but it’s curious that we put so much of the Nuggets struggles on Jokic. He knows his game and he knows his role.
Among observers, including announcers, sideline reporters, studio reporters and national prognosticators, there’s a push to force this Denver Nuggets team into conformity with old-school standards. Back to the basket isn’t Jokic. Entry passes to Nikola in said post is not Jamal Murray‘s game. What we saw last season in the run to try to make the playoffs is that this Denver Nuggets team is at their best when they are allowed to play the style that works best for them and that’s the free-wheeling up-and-down play that had everyone thinking they’d score at will, every night.
The defensive improvement is nice but it is also unreliable, as evidenced by Brooklyn’s 112 points on Friday night.
The Bucks don’t offer an easy path out of this mini slump, coming off of a big defeat of the Golden State Warriors but if we know anything about these Nuggets it is that you never really know what you’re going to get.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Pepsi Center – Denver, CO. 6pm MDT
TV: Altitude 2, Fox Sports Wisconsin
Radio: Altitude 92.5, WTMJ AM620
Streaming: Altitude NOW (Subscription)
Favorite: Bucks +140
Paul Millsap (ankle) – probable
Michael Porter, Jr. (back) – out
Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) – out
Isaiah Thomas (hip) – out