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If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.
Before we get started, keep in mind that this was written prior to last night’s game. There will be no film from it, and all of the insights are being gleaned from Games 1-3. Don’t come after me if something I say doesn’t match up with what we saw on the court in Game 4. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get started.
Denver handled the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3. Anthony Davis didn’t get his first rebound until the fourth quarter, and he finished with just two overall. Meanwhile, the Lakers filed a complaint with the NBA that LeBron James wasn’t getting enough attempts at the free-throw line. All the while, Denver was watching their shooters cook while Nikola Jokic was bullying every mismatch he came across.
The Nuggets are one Davis 3-point shot away from being up 2-1 in the series. They’ve more than proven that they can hang with a group like this, and they’ve already dispatched the other title favorite in the LA Clippers. This group can do something special this season. They can hang with anyone on any night no matter how many times they’re knocked to the mat. The key is to stay the course of what’s working while throwing out what isn’t.
Jamal Murray Is Cooking
Jamal Murray has found a level even his biggest supporters couldn’t have seen coming. He’s got a slashline of .505/.477/.877, and he’s averaging over 26 points per game. He’s not doing it against backups either. In this clip here, he goes into his bag and gets all the way to the rim against Davis. Davis was first-team all defense this year, and he finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting. Despite those accolades, Murray is making plays like this with regularity.
In the clutch, Murray has been the NBA’s best player this postseason. No one has been better, and, if anyone tells you otherwise, they aren’t paying attention. In the final three minutes of games where the score is within five points, Murray has an offensive rating of 152.0. In case you weren’t aware, that’s pretty damn good. If you stacked that up against all players from the playoffs, regardless of minutes amounts, that would be the third best mark in terms of full offensive ratings.
On Tuesday night, Murray embraced his Blue Arrow monicker, and he shot an arrow through the heart of Laker fans around the world. With right around 1:00 remaining in the game, Denver was up nine. They needed one more bucket to really stifle LA. Murray got the switch he wanted with Davis guarding him, and he drained the shot with relative ease. Jokic gives the team a bailout option on the inside, but Murray is quickly proving to be unfathomable on those late shots from outside when the lights are brightest.
The Joker Is Clowning Them
He’s making them look silly. He’s the jester on this court. Is that enough puns? Ok. Good. Seriously, Jokic has to be the most frustrating person in the NBA to guard. I put him over James Harden because, even when you don’t foul him, he finds ways to make shots. On this one, Alex Caruso is in just about the best position he could have for the contest of the shot, but it doesn’t matter. Jokic gets his feet set at a weird angle, rises up and knocks down the shot. What is the defender supposed to do here?
Someone find Davis and ask him if he’s doing ok. He’s a great defender, but he’s just gotten taken advantage of repeatedly in this series by Jokic and Murray. On this play, he literally does everything right. He stays tight to Jokic without letting him get towards the basket, and he gives him nowhere to go. Jokic, as usual, takes it in stride. He takes one step outwards before rising up off of one leg to launch a rainbow-arc jumper. Davis doesn’t commit a foul or anything negative on the play. Jokic just reached into his bag of tricks and knocked down a shot that looks bad when the other 99 percent of the NBA takes it, but it’s just a Tuesday night for him.
The Other Guys Are Stepping Up
When this team wins, it’s because the guys outside of Jokic and Murray are making plays. In Game 3, it was all about Jerami Grant. The forward went 7-of-11 from the field, and he got to the line for 12 free-throw attempts. He was also 2-of-5 from outside, and Michael Malone had him largely mirroring the minutes of LeBron as a defensive answer. Grant is a smart player that knows how to pick his spots. He brings the team a great defender, but he has shown the ability to explode for big scoring nights. If he can be more consistent in that area, this team becomes even more deadly.
Malone has got to love having Monte Morris on this roster. His ability to find space for open shots is outstanding. After being a ball-dominant guard in college, he has rapidly learned the ability to move off the ball, and, when he’s putting up shots, he’s making them a lot in this series. On this play, he doesn’t sprint around like J.J. Redick, but he picks his spot and gets just enough of a rub from Michael Porter Jr. to get the shot off. Additionally, having this smart of a ball handler coming off your bench is just a luxury the majority of teams don’t have.
Rounding out the other guys is MPJ. This kid is fearless. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished. If he thinks he has a clean look, he’s going to rise up and fire. He’s going to be a special player when he’s fully developed, but, right now, he just needs to play his role. When he comes off the bench, he needs to be ready to knock down shots like this. It spaces the floor for the other non-shooters around him, and that makes life easier on everyone.
For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.