If the kick-off on Saturday was proof that Nikola Jokic is ready for the start of the season, you should prove on Wednesday that his running mate Jamal Murray is too.
Murray was aggressive from the start, scoring Denver’s first eight points in a healthy 126-95 win over Portland. The Nuggets will face the Blazers again on Friday in their final preseason.
Rather than settle for medium-weight looks or the tough tries Murray can make, the fifth year Denver security guard chased the analytically friendly shot coach Michael Malone had called for throughout training camp. He finished with 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and four turnovers.
« He doesn’t want me to shoot that much off the middle, so I’ll just have to step back and shoot a three, » said Murray.
The only serious mistake in Denver’s execution on Wednesday was in the third quarter when the lead rose to 24. Murray was carefree with the ball several times and the nuggets got sloppy. The 23 turnovers were about the only flaw of the night, but it was hardly the way Malone wanted his team to perform with a significant cushion.
As a team, the Nuggets had 22 assists in 25 goals scored, while shooting 54% off the field in the first half. They finished the victory with 39 assists and 45 field goals scored. As Malone often sarcastically says, that’s a real number.
Paul Millsap, who had two triples himself, finished the race with 18 points at team level. Most of its production was based on ingenious finds by Jokic and Murray. The heart of the Denver franchise ended with 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Barton’s Back: There was no more welcome sight for the Nuggets than bringing veteran little striker Will Barton back on the field. Aside from half a scrimmage in the « bubble, » Barton had had a lot since 11. March stopped playing when the season was suspended due to an agonizing knee injury.
Barton, who came from the bench, provided the second unit of the team with fun, creativity and self-confidence. His first return leg brought nine points and three assists in 18 minutes.
« I was so happy for Will, » said Malone. “This was not an easy path for him. I know being in the bubble trying to play again was really tough for him, mentally challenging, frustrating. ”
Barton’s first basket – a floater at the end of the first quarter – pulled his teammates to their feet. His emotional scream at the face of former Nuggets striker Carmelo Anthony spoke no less volumes.
« Just having him in practice, having him out there competing and the only way to get in game shape is to play, » said Malone. “Those last couple of exercises were great for Will. And tonight, of course, he’ll get the chance to play and play in those minutes of the game. I think this is going to be really important for Will to get back to the level we know he can. ”
Barton said he’d like to start, but the Nuggets seem relatively solid on their starting grid of Jokic, Murray, Gary Harris, Millsap and Michael Porter Jr. to stand. If Barton is ready to take his role off the bench, Denver’s second unit could be devastating.
On Wednesday, Barton played alongside Monte Morris, P. . J. . Dozier, JaMychal Green and Isaiah Hartenstein. Barton is easily the group’s top scorer, and instead of fighting for touch with the starting unit, Barton could best do his damage against opposing second units.
The result, on Wednesday at least, meant Facu Campazzo was excluded from rotation. Given Malone’s affinity for the shabby point guard, it’s hard to see a scenario in which he doesn’t find time for him. He raves about his defensive intensity and his passion for the game. It’s hard to believe he wouldn’t use it.
Quote: “I have a feeling that across the Denver metropolitan area there will be a lot of kids running around LoHi, Castle Rock, wearing Campazzo jerseys because he’s the kind of player that people relate to him with can and really understand excited to see him play.
Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazer, NBA, Nikola Jokić, Terry Stotts
World news – USA – Nuggets throttle Blazer in convincing win in the preseason
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