May 19, 2024

The Denver Nuggets Fall Short in Crucial Game;

Jamal Murray – D+

Facing heightened defensive attention from Oklahoma City, Murray struggled to maintain his early momentum. Compounded by Nikola Jokić’s absence due to low back pain, the pressure was on Denver’s other top players to secure a significant victory against a formidable Western Conference opponent—a challenge they haven’t consistently met.

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While Murray began the game energetically, his performance waned under relentless defense from Lu Dort and the Thunder’s strategic moves. The physical defensive tactics allowed are typical for All-Star caliber players. The absence of Jokić highlighted the Nuggets’ reliance on their complete starting five. Without him, the team lacked a second All-Star, a role not typically fulfilled by Murray in the regular season, similarly affecting their third-best scorer.

Michael Porter Jr. – D

Porter’s struggles without Jokić persisted in the game against Oklahoma City, resulting in the Nuggets losing the season series and tiebreaker to a division rival. His early missed shots, rushed and seemingly without hope, set a discouraging tone. While he contributed impactful defense in the first half, missed open shots undermined his overall performance, leaving opportunities for the Thunder.

Porter’s shooting improved in the fourth quarter as Denver attempted a comeback, but his focus wavered. Despite being in a prime position to secure a crucial rebound, he failed to capitalize, reflecting a missed opportunity to salvage his performance. Murray, too, showed a lack of hustle in that crucial possession.

Aaron Gordon – A

In the absence of Jokić, Gordon emerged as the standout Nugget, recording 16 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 blocks. Displaying relentless effort throughout the game, he nearly propelled his team to an improbable victory. Despite struggling from the free-throw line, Gordon’s overall contribution was undeniable. He thrived in the physically demanding game, applying pressure and supplying highlights for the Nuggets.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – C-

While Denver held a slim halftime lead through exceptional defensive efforts, Caldwell-Pope’s performance in the second half contributed to the team’s downfall. Fumbling multiple possessions and committing turnovers during crucial moments, his errors proved costly, undermining the Nuggets’ chances of victory.

Peyton Watson – C+

Given a spot start in Jokić’s absence, Watson had a positive impact on defense. With all five starters engaged defensively, the team showcased a higher defensive gear. However, Watson’s struggle to avoid foul trouble limited his playing time, and coach Michael Malone chose to close the game with Reggie Jackson instead.

Reggie Jackson – C+

Leading all Nuggets off the bench, Jackson contributed 16 points with relatively efficient shooting. Despite shooting 5/12 from the field, he managed 2/3 from deep and 4/4 from the free-throw line. Unfortunately, the second unit faltered, and Jackson was involved in a crucial five-second violation during the unsuccessful comeback attempt.

Christian Braun – B

Although the +/- stat may not fully reflect it, Braun played well, displaying glimpses of his usual self. He contributed defensively, grabbed rebounds, and made several 3-pointers on his way to scoring 10 points.

Justin Holiday – C

Holiday made some shots and contributed defensively, but his impact was relatively limited.

Zeke Nnaji – F

Nnaji’s performance off the bench proved detrimental to the team, finishing with a -12 in less than nine minutes, highlighting his struggles to provide a positive impact during crucial stretches.

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