The Nuggets have been playing an exciting brand of basketball since head coach Michael Malone inserted Nikola Jokic into the starting lineup. In fact, since the season altering move, which occurred on December 15, the Nuggets have a record of 12-9. Furthermore, Denver has won seven of its last nine games. However, this past week might have been the most impressive and important stretch of their season thus far.
Tuesday, January 24:
The Nuggets found themselves in a battle with the defensive minded and gritty Utah Jazz. To the surprise of many, the Jazz currently find themselves with a record of 30-19, sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference. This did not faze the Nuggets as they dropped 103 points, lead by a 33 point second quarter in route to a 103-93 win. Nikola Jokic lead the way with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
Thursday, January 26:
Thursday, the Phoenix Suns made their way to the Pepsi Center to take on the Nuggets for what was the first of a home and home series between the two. The Nuggets started hot out of the gates, scoring 35 points in the first quarter; however, they found themselves with a four point deficit at the half. The third quarter came and went, not before the Nuggets dropped an impressive 39 points in what was one of three 30+ point quarters for Denver. The Nuggets got to the charity stripe early and often, making 30/35 from the line. The fourth quarter was winding down, the game looking like a Nuggets victory, when suddenly the Nuggets almost took a MAJOR loss.
When contesting a shot, Nikola Jokic landed awkwardly and immediately dropped to the hardwood. I imagine you could hear a pin drop in the Pepsi Center. Jokic was able to walk (with a noticeable limp) to the locker room where he was later carted in to get an x-ray. It was determined to be a left hip flexor strain with an MRI scheduled for the following day. Despite not finishing the game, Jokic ended on triple-double alert, posting 29 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists.
Saturday, January 28th:
The Nuggets received tremendous news when it was announced that Nikola Jokic only suffered a left hip flexor strain and would be day-to-day. Denver was in Phoenix for the second game of the aforementioned home-and-home series between the Nuggets and Suns. WIthout their budding superstar, the Nuggets turned in one of their better performances of the year. The Nuggets were lethargic to start the game and found themselves with a twelve point deficit after the first quarter. After two consecutive quarters of 35+ points, the game was all but over. Once again, the Nuggets were able to abuse the Suns and get to the free throw line 42 times, converting on 37 of them. With a 32 point contribution from Danilo Gallinari, the Nuggets were able to pull off not only the home-and-home series sweep, but the season series sweep over Phoenix.
This was an important stretch for the young Denver Nuggets. It is never easy to win two consecutive games over the same team in the NBA, regardless of their record/standing. Oh, and those guys from Utah? Yeah, they’re no scrubs either. After suffering an extreme scare with Jokic going down, the Nuggets were able to finish off the week with a 3-0 record and are now 21-25 on the season, sitting eighth in the West. They will now move their focus to the Los Angeles Lakers and a very winnable game. The all-star break is on the horizon and the Nuggets are trending in the right direction.
*Worth Noting: During this stretch, the Nuggets were also without starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay*