Upcoming homestand provides chance for the Nuggets to right the ship
Win two, lose two. Win two, lose two. At 4-4, the Nuggets aren’t off to the start they had hoped for, but eight games into the NBA season is no time to panic. However, the next two weeks are critical for Michael Malone’s team to turn things around.
Denver plays seven of its next eight games inside the friendly confines of Ball Arena, and they need to win at least six of them. Anything less is asking for trouble when 14 of the following 19 games will be on the road until the end of December.
If Denver doesn’t step up now, things could get ugly with that December schedule. Here’s how they can do it:
Switch It Up
The Nuggets starters have been a dominant unit this season thanks mostly in part to the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. The starting five has put up ridiculous numbers despite Michael Porter Jr. and Monte Morris struggling to shoot and make plays. The combination of Jokic, Aaron Gordon and Will Barton is the key. They’re going to win the minutes they play together most nights regardless of who is on the court with them. It’s time to give some of the struggling bench veterans more run with those three. Jeff and JaMychal Green could use the easier looks they would get by playing with Jokic to see some shots fall and regain their confidence.
The Bench Breaks Out
The brutal bench combination of Facu Campazzo, both Greens, Austin Rivers, and P.J. Dozier has been a disaster. Malone gave those veterans a much-deserved opportunity to begin the season, but they don’t work together as a unit. Staggering Porter and Morris more will give the bench some scoring punch, and could also help those two players’ confidence playing more against other teams’ subs. Bench players have always played better at home than on the road in the NBA, so Denver needs to figure this out this week.
Shoot the Three
The Nuggets rank 28th in the NBA in three-point shooting at just 30%. Only dreadful Oklahoma City and Detroit are worse at making the long ball. Specifically, Michael Porter Jr. at 21.7%, JaMychal Green at 20% and Jeff Green at 17.6%. You can’t win in today’s NBA when you’re getting outscored by 30-plus points at the three-point line alone. Let Jokic help the Greens break out at home. Get Porter some different looks playing with the other bench combos and help him discover his stroke.
All Gas, No Brakes
When the Nuggets offense has stalled in the past, the answer has always been to pick up the pace. They can play faster, especially with elevation on their side, and open up the game. Bones Hyland has proven he deserves big minutes in the rotation, now let him go full throttle and attack the rim. He’s shown to be a willing passer in his minutes so far, so lets see how the team responds if he’s turned loose to pick up the pace.
Saturday’s game against the rebuilding Rockets should be a get-right game to start the home stretch. But after that, some of the beasts of the East in Miami, Atlanta, Philly, and Chicago all visit during a seven-game stretch. The Nuggets need to get right before it’s too late.