The Nuggets embark on a short road trip to play the Lakers and Kings — will their short break help them be rested for their next stretch of games?
How can the Nuggets beat the Lakers?
Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): Score more points than the Lakers! Duh. Ok, seriously though. They have to force misses on 3-point attempts. The Nuggets have been bad against 3-point shooting teams, and, while the Lakers don’t shoot a lot of 3-point shots, they’re 6th in percentage at 38.4 percent. Denver has to force misses there. With the rest of the offense playing well, they can kind of keep pace, but they don’t have the 3-point horses to hang in a shootout barnburner. If the Lakers are hitting shots from outside, it’s likely over early.
Jeremy Poley (@JeremyPoley): They need to follow the blue-print they’ve been playing with all season. The major roadblock in the playoffs was Jokic’s game being limited. Rather surprisingly, this was the result of the big-bodied duo of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee – and they’re both gone. In their stead is a slower Marc Gasol that Jokic has handled aptly before. Backing him up is Montrezl Harrell, a player whom Jokic handled so thoroughly that it got Harrell’s coach fired just for leaving him in the game. If the Nuggets are going to overcome the Lakers at any point in this era it will need to come on the back of their best player – Jokic. Also, maybe they could call up Dick Monfort and throw another $50m at the refs like the Lakers do.
Daniel Lewis (@denverstiffs): Take advantage of an aged Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell, forcing the Lakers to put Anthony Davis on Nikola Jokic. Gasol was a great player, but he’s not someone that is able to put together a spectacular 30-minute game. Harrell couldn’t defend Jokic in the playoffs last year, and won’t be able to this year. If Jokic can force Davis to guard him, that helps open up the paint for the rest of his teammates. They’re going to need to limit their turnovers, and make a lot of 3-pointers in order to get ahead of the Lakers, who are guaranteed to get a friendly whistle at home.
How can the Nuggets beat the Kings?
Gage: There are two keys here. One, they can’t get blown out in any one quarter. They’re 0-2 against the Kings so far this season, and, in those two losses, they had three different quarter losses by 12 or more points, including getting blown out by 14 in the most recent loss. If you keep games close, good teams are going to come out with victories. Blowing leads or losing momentums in quarters gives bad teams a chance to steal one. Second, 3-point defense is important. If you let a team shoot 48.5 percent from 3-point range on 33 attempts, you’re going to lose. It’s simple.
Poley: I hate that this is even a question aside from “show up”. There were some similarities in our two losses as well as some differences. The biggest similarity is that the King’s backcourt was more than we could handle. Murray is back after missing the second game against the Kings and Harris was showing improvement, but now its looking like he may miss the game. Morris played great offense filling in for Murray, and they’ll need that if Harris is missing. But Murray will be the wild-card whether he can bring some defense and provide efficient offense. Also, now’s the time for our improved bench play to show up when Jokic is off the floor.
Lewis: They need a better performance from Jamal Murray than they had in the first two games this season. If Murray can help keep DeAaron Fox in check, and attack the Kings’ “defense” on the other end of the court, they should be able to pick up an easy win. The Kings aren’t a good team — let’s hope the Nuggets have figured out how to beat teams like that this season.
What is your main takeaway from the Nuggets win over the Jazz?
Gage: The old Jazz are gone. For years, the Jazz were a grind-it-out team that loved to win defensive battles. That’s not the case anymore. They’re in the top three in attempts and percentage from distance, and they’re first in makes per game. They also give up the fourth-most triples per game. When Denver plays Utah, they’re going to have to bring electric shooting performances every time. Another small takeaway is that Nikola Jokic is just a ridiculously good player heading into the prime of a Hall of Fame career.
Poley: We’re a problem for the entire NBA. As homebodies that watch the same team it can be easy to jump on them when they screw up, or exaggerate their flaws. But we were hearing national media starting to consider Mitchell for MVP and one ESPN analyst even ranked the Jazz #1 in the NBA (the same analyst that laughed when asked if the Nuggets stood a chance against the Clippers in the playoffs). We may lose to the Kings on a weird night, sure. But, let’s not lose sight on us being a force in the NBA that’s still finding itself.
Lewis: The Jazz have a player they gave a $205 million extension that cannot guard Nikola Jokic. As good of a defender as Gobert is against the rest of the league, he doesn’t have an answer for Jokic when the Serbian center is able to get his 3-point shot to fall. The league has seen guards rise in importance over the past two decades, but a dominant big man is still one of the best ways to secure wins, and the Nuggets have the edge in that matchup. That means that the Nuggets will always have a chance against the Jazz, no matter how good our division rival becomes.
Which Nuggets player do you feel could use some words of affirmation?
Gage: Will Barton. Coming off of a career-best season, he’s frequently looked out of sync on the floor, and he just hasn’t found his footing. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, he’s an electric player capable of carrying the team for stretches, such as the game against the Brooklyn Nets. If it weren’t for his heroics in the second half, they would have lost by much more than six. If he can get clicking again, this team has the potential to roll even the best teams every single night.
Poley: I want to say Bol Bol, but I thoroughly believe his issues stem largely from being misused as a small forward in his conservative minutes. I agree with Gage that it’s Barton that could use the biggest boost on this team. His size and playmaking set him above any other “non-core” player on the team that can help our starters in becoming the best starting 5 in the NBA. But he hasn’t been as snappy to close out on defense and his renowned iso defense has had some holes in it. He could also use a nudge up in his shooting touch, but that only feels like a matter of time based on his past success.
Lewis: I’ll go with Jamal Murray. I don’t know if he needs positive reinforcement from anyone with his confidence level, but I think it’s important for him to know that us Nuggets fans appreciate him. When he plays well, the team thrives. He’s becoming more and more of a complete player, and we see the result of the hard work he’s putting in. Keep on improving young man.
What is your favorite Bill Murray movie?
Gage: There are a number of movies that Murray has been in that I have enjoyed more than my choice, but, in terms of movies that he was one of the main cast, I go with Ghostbusters. It’s a classic movie with endless rewatchability and quotable lines that still linger to this day. You can’t even hear the phrase “Who ya gonna call?” without thinking about it.
Poley: Rushmore. Whether it’s picturing him swatting an 8-year old’s shot, sitting at the bottom of a pool, or lighting up a cigarette without realizing he already has one in his mouth, nothing captures the sad, sad, sad darkness of adulthood more than this.
Lewis: No respect for Space Jam? Caddyshack? Garfield??? My favorite is Groundhog Day. I was just talking about it earlier in the week. One friend brought up how funny it would be for a movie studio to release a sequel, but when the movie starts, it begins with his alarm clock going off and it’s just the original movie in the theaters again. I like Murray about as much as Woody Harrelson’s character Tallahassee does in the movie “Zombieland,” which is to say, a lot.