#Raptors @ #Nuggets 11/1/2017 – Game Notes

Murray

My (belated) game notes from the Nuggets’ big win over the Raptors:

 

Val fouls on TOR’s opening possession. Could come into play later?

Murray starts with a great drive & reverse layup. He’s been good at getting going early, but worse at following through with wire-to-wire solid play. But hopefully this bodes well.

Millsap sidesteps into an open 3, hits it. Was playing near the perimeter to space the floor on that possession.

Jokic passes up the midrange j, gets it to Millsap at the arc. I cringed hard, but he nails his 2nd consecutive 3.

Millsap is on fire, hits from midrange, TOR timeout after Nuggets go up 10-2 to start. My next question is not if, but how they will screw this up.

Both of the Raps’ two baskets – first Powell, then Lowry – made by guards driving to the basket. Nuggets (Jokic) not providing any rim protection.

Millsap gets bailed out on what this time I’d call a very ill-advised 3-point attempt, as Ibaka bumps him.

Millsap again, j from the elbow. Dayum.

Oof. Jokic totally falls asleep in the paint, lets Val breeze by him to get a pass right at the rim for an easy dunk. Trbl.

There we go. Jokic to Harris DHO for the 3. I like how this is playing out. Going to Millsap early could open up easier opportunities for scoring when O goes through Jokic.

Raps get 4 quick points when Lowry scores off a steal after DeRozan made a 2, but Harris responds with a jumper from the top of the key. DEN up 10.

Jokic was driving in of the P&R but instead of taking his shot, sends it to the corner. Play gets busted up, Millsap miss on a drive w/ the clock winding down. Wanna see Joker shoot that one.

Murray takes a heroic dive to try to finish off a steal, rewarded only with a hard fall into the seats. Which there are a lot of empty ones, btw.

Murray with a two great drives, the second off a missed 3.

Plumlee makes a terrible choice, misses the j from the elbow which surprises nobody. Least of all TOR’s defense who gladly lets him take it.

Lowry gets Mudiay all mixed up on a nice move for the layup.

The movement in this Plumlee-Millsap lineup is just so damn stagnant. Millsap isos, then dishes out to Harris who misses a 3, but nothing’s in rhythm, nothing’s flowing.

Malone calls timeout after the Raps close it to 8. Nuggets offense stalling bigtime.

Oh, shit, Murray’s in the locker room? /scared/

Nuggets with a bad offensive possession out of the timeout, luck out as TOR knocks it out, Jokic ends up getting a nice entry pass to Plumlee at the rim for 2.

OG Anunoby in. I die a little inside.

Great sequence by Jokic with a block then a running floater in the lane. 30-16.

And again, my question is not if, but how they will screw this up.

After some shaky play, Mudiay hits an open corner 3. If Murray doesn’t come back, they’re gonna lean heavy on him, so that’s a good sign.

33-16 DEN, TOR calls timeout. I’m just waiting to see the Raps clamp down defensively, which seems likely, and to see how the Nuggets respond to that.

Nuggets finish the 1st up 34-19, can’t ask for a much better start, let’s see if they can build on it. Been unable to do so in most games so far.

Nuggets finally starting to play Nuggets offense again. Great unselfish ball movement Jokic > Mudiay > Faried inside.

Lowry hits a 3 after a DEN turnover, Mudiay responds w/ a great baseline drive. He’s looking solid now.

Jokic has multiple plays in this game with good rim protection now. And some where he went MIA. But still, seeing more from him than usual there.

Anunoby goes out having not played very well at all. So at least the dagger in my heart wasn’t twisted. Hopefully it won’t be.

Beasley misses the wide open 3, Val makes his second consecutive shot, Raps close to 14.

Mudiay finds Beas on the next possession, hits his 3 this time. That is a very astute point guard play by Emmanuel, giving Malik the chance to keep his confidence up, passing up a good shot for a better one. His head is in the game.

Valanciunas scores again off the offensive rebound. He’s pretty much having his way with Jokic now.

Barton with a fantastic oop to Faried on the ATO play. Great execution. And Murray back out there (whew).

Beas missed 3, DeRozan inside for 2, Barton airballs it, TOR cuts DEN lead to 11.

Great give & go by Harris & Millsap, then DEN forces a shot clock violation, Nuggets back up 15 with possession.

Another great ball movement possession: Chandler > Jokic > Harris > Millsap for 3, nails it and draws the foul on Ibaka.

Millsap hits the FT, Nuggets back up 19. Reallllly thought they were about to let this one slip, good sign of resilience that all too often hasn’t been there this season.

This time Millsap misses the heat check 3. Don’t want to see him lean too heavy on that, but hard to fault when he’s going at a pretty good clip in this one.

Ball don’t lie. Norm misses his first FT on the Harris “foul” at the arc w/ 1 sec on the shot clock.

Millsap shakin and bakin on the iso from the low post. Another 2 for him on the fadeaway.

Aw, man, Jokic gets WAY too cute, makes a dumb unnecessary behind the back pass on the break, play broken up, Nuggets turnover via foul. That was ugly.

Nuggets up 14 at the half, got discombobulated in those last couple minutes, probably good it went to halftime (I hope). But they hung 60 in the half on a very good defense, so a feather in the cap for that.

Nuggets open the half with a missed Jokic 3, made Ibaka 3, missed contested Chandler 2, made DeRozan driving layup. 14 point lead down to 9 in just one minute.

Murray passes up a wide open 3, gets it to Millsap in the low post who missed a contested j. Passing up good shots for bad ones won’t win this.

But another great response by Denver, Jokic to Harris for the made 3, then to Chandler on the break, back up 14 just like that.

Great defensive possession there, force a bad shot with the clock winding down, Murray takes it all the way up the other way for the layup, Nuggets up 69-51 on a 9-0 run.

Powell hits a 3, but so does Murray, who has Denver’s last 7 points.

Nuggets up 20 and WC will go to the stripe for his and-1 chance after the TO.

Can I breathe easy yet? Nope, this is the Nuggets.

Murray hits the 3, Nuggets now on a 19-5 run, go up 80-56. Okay, maybe I start breathing a bit easier now.

This is the Jamal Murray we’ve been waiting for.

Murray misses his first FT of the season.

Raps announcer: “I’ll say this, though. For a team that’s winning by 22, it’s quiet.” Welcome to the Pepsi Center.

Oh, shit. They just said there was a shooting north of there right before the game. Been on a news blackout to avoid spoiling the score. My late condolences to anyone who was affected.

Nuggets force the turnover, Barton hits the 3, Nuggets now up 84-58. That should pretty much seal the deal. But I’ll wait till the fat lady sings.

Another TOR TO, another DEN 3.

Another TOR TO, this time followed by a Murray drive. 89-58 Denver. Murray 21 points on 7-9 shooting.

Nuggets finish the 3rd quarter up 103-71. Bring on garbage time! About time this team stuck a fork in it early. Or maybe I shouldn’t speak too soon.

Garbage time, but OG gets a nice steal and hits a 3 at the other end.

Raps announcer: “I’m impressed tonight with Denver’s defense. When the game was in the balance, the Raptors had a ton of possessions where they had to go late in the shot clock. That’s the sign of a good defense.”

Mudiay runs the court for a layup, puts Nuggets up 112-78, basically just pouring salt in the wounds now.

With 7:41 remaining, Jokic goes to the bench with an 8/16/10 line. Coulda sworn he scored more than that, guess not, looks like he’ll sit out the rest two points shy of a triple double.

Lyles hits a 3. His form really does look smooth.

Big cheers for Richard Jefferson as he gets ready to check in.

Nuggets up 199-87, 4:46 left in deep garbage time, Faried bodies up and draws the charge. These dudes still playing.

I was just about to write that Mudiay is looking to create shots for his teammates, passing up his own to get it inside to Beasley, but then first thing he does on the inbound is jack up a bad, long 3. Always a mixed bag with him.

Under 3 minutes left, Nuggets fall asleep on defense and give up 5 easy points, Malone doesn’t like their quit, calls time out.

WHOA! Beasley throws down a slam dunk like I don’t think I’ve ever seen from him before.

Beasley gets another dunk, but wisely (in terms of good sportsmanship) doesn’t put any pizzazz on it.

Big applause for RJ as he hits his second FT, his first point as a Denver Nugget.

That’s it, Nuggets win 129-111.

Jamal Murray: 24/3/2 on 8-10 shooting (3-5 from 3), +35, his third consecutive game with 20 or more points.

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Chart: Nikola Jokic’s steadily improving assist proficiency

Jokic.cumulative.assists

By now, Nikola Jokic’s unique passing ability is no secret, even on the national media stage which has tended to overlook the Denver Nuggets in recent years, as his flash, flair, and efficiency in creating easy looks for his teammates last season earned accolades not only from loyal fans and stat heads but also the likes of Charles Barkley, Jeff Van Gundy, and Bill Walton.

Still, sometimes it’s good to confirm that what we already know – or think we know – based on the good old eye test is backed up by the numbers. And in Jokic’s case, it certainly is.

The two lines in the graph above chart the rise of Jokic’s assist proficiency through the 153 games he has played thus far in his two-season career. The blue line might be less surprising, as it represents his assists per game, a number that would be expected to rise as he earned a larger role and along with it more minutes. The more telling figure, however, is the red line, which shows that not only has his per-game production consistently increased, but at the same time his assists per minute have as well.

Granted, this is among the simpler assist metrics (a good description of some of the more advanced ones can be found here at Basketball-Reference.com, which is also the source of the above statistics). Nevertheless, it is sufficient for our purposes here since we are only looking at The Joker’s performance over time in isolation, and not comparing him to other players. And we can clearly see a definitive and steady increase throughout his first two seasons in how prolific a playmaker he has been.

I would currently be prepared to put money down on him being the next in a fairly elite set of NBA centers who have averaged 5 or more assists per game, though I might be more reluctant to wager on this if the Nuggets were to acquire, for example, a ball-dominating point guard like Kyrie Irving who might take away touches from Nikola and alter Denver’s offensive flow. But for now, Jokic indeed appears to be on a 5-plus trajectory, and the addition of Paul Millsap, who like Jokic is an excellent passer who keeps the ball moving, will likely only facilitate this prospect.