In the last month, the Nuggets have turned into an offensive juggernaut
After taking eight days off for the All-Star break, the Nuggets picked up right where they left off Thursday night in Sacramento. Denver set a new franchise record with its 20th straight game making 10 or more three-pointers, and still managed to score 56 points in the paint. The break did nothing to cool the red-hot offense, and the Nuggets have now won five of their last six games.
Nikola Jokic was the catalyst as usual, with another near triple-double of 25 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, but he also had some help. Will Barton looked rested and refreshed, scoring a season-high 31 on 11-of-17 shooting and finished a +27 on the night. Aaron Gordon also looked like his old self after a week off, going 6-of-10 from the field with six rebounds and three assists. It was a true all around effort as Monte Morris, Austin Rivers, JaMychal Green and Bryn Forbes all played well after having some time off.
With so many veterans on the roster, that rest is going to prove to be key the rest of the season. While rookie Bones Hyland may have had a bit of an All-Star hangover, the proven vets all looked revived and ready to play from the opening tip. They performed like a team that was focused, and ready for the stretch run to the postseason.
Green, Rivers, Forbes and Morris making threes provides more spacing in the offense, and allows more room for Jokic to work his magic. That group also took a five-point lead into the fourth quarter and extended it to 11 in the first two minutes, helping the Nuggets win the final period 36-23 and take the victory going away.
Barton has struggled for a large part of the season, but perhaps played his best game of the year on Thursday night. It was certainly one of his most efficient, giving the Nuggets a big off-the-dribble scoring boost.
Gordon looked to have more spring back in his step after being hampered with a hamstring issue over the last few weeks. Denver’s vets were all locked in.
With the same Kings team coming to Ball Arena on Saturday, then a trip to Portland on Sunday before a four-game homestand, the Nuggets have a real opportunity to chase down the fifth seed or even the Northwest Division title and the fourth seed for the playoffs.
The offense is the reason why – since an 87-85 loss to the Clippers on Jan. 11, Denver has scored 115 points or more in 14 of 21 games, and at least 102 every time out. The bench that couldn’t throw it in the ocean in October is suddenly a lethal three-point shooting weapon. The third-quarter droughts and second-half fades have turned into 65- and 70-point explosions. Denver has risen to No. 3 in the NBA in Effective Field Goal Percentage, trailing only Utah and Golden State.
If you’ve read this far, I probably don’t need to remind you, but keep in mind this new offensive juggernaut is also likely to add the firepower of not one but two 19-plus points per game scorers in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to the arsenal in the next month.
With the bench shooting the three the way they have for the last month, a resurgent Barton and a healthy Gordon, and of course the MVP, this offense could be very, very scary heading into the playoffs.