If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.
The Nuggets have been one of the NBA’s best teams since January 1st, and they just finished up an incredible stretch. They are 12-3 in their last 15 games, including going 9-2 over their last 11, with one of those two losses being to the Golden State Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back after playing their fourth game in five days without multiple rotation players in the lineup.
With 15 games left in their season, their next stretch is going to be an absolute gauntlet to run, and it started last night against the Warriors. In their next seven games, the Nuggets are playing six opponents that are currently in the playoffs. The schedule lightens up a bit after that, but, in a tight playoff race, Denver needs every win they can get in order to avoid slipping into the play-in seedings at the bottom of the playoff bracket.
Luckily for Denver, none of these games are a back-to-back, although they never get more than one night off during the stretch either. This Nuggets’ team has been able to find wins recently in varying ways, and they need to maintain that level of play in order to keep winning. There’s a saying that says that “Winning Ugly is greater than Losing Pretty.” This Denver team has that mentality, and they’ll need it over this next 11 day stretch.
Get Monte Morris Rolling
Without Jamal Murray, the Nuggets have been waiting all season for Monte Morris to get cooking as a scorer. He would show occasional flashes here and there, but he’s really started to get on a roll over the last several games. Morris was never a high-volume shooter, but he’s carved out a niche that sees an increase in volume while maintaining efficiency. In his last eight games where he shot at least 50 percent while scoring at least 12 points, the team is an impressive 7-1, with the lone loss coming last night to the Warriors where Morris had 19 points while shooting 8-of-14 from the field. I know we’ve all seen this before, but the guy handling the ball was wearing 27 instead of 11. The two-man game between Morris and Nikola Jokic can be spectacular when it’s working right. On this play, Jokic sets a pair of screens on De’Aaron Fox that generates enough room for Morris to drive towards the basket, and he has the speed to get there and finish with the reverse layup.
How was it so easy for Morris to get to the rim? Why didn’t Alex Len drop down to try and keep him from driving all the way there? Because he had to honor the fact that Morris would pass the ball out to Jokic, which is exactly what he does on this play. Morris is driving, and Len slides over to stop him. As soon as that happens, that leaves Jokic wide open for the easy floater and two points on the board.
Keep the Bench Offense Moving
Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen a shift in the way the Nuggets’ bench offense has been operating. For the first three months of the season, we saw a lot of people standing around and hoping that someone could make a shot for themselves, and, if that failed, they generally weren’t scoring. Now, with Bones Hyland and Bryn Forbes in the lineup, they’re attacking the rim, and it’s leading to more successful scoring opportunities. On the play above, Bones is driving to the rim, and he has the attention of four Warriors’ defenders. When they rotate over, that leaves a clean runway for JaMychal Green who skied for the powerful dunk to tie the game at 35. This unit doesn’t have enough shooters to be standing around, and that’s why the motion and willingness to pass is so important.
In their attempted comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was the duo of Hyland and Forbes that did a lot of the heavy lifting. They were the only two non-Jokic players that had double-digit points, and they hit 10 of the team’s 12 3-point shots. On this play, gets the ball to Forbes. Due to the great screen by DeMarcus Cousins, Forbes’ defender is scrambling to stay in contact with him. The center slides over to help, which forces Bones’ defender to guard Boogie. Forbes sees this and throws the overhead pass across the court to Hyland who knocks down the triple. It all started with a little motion off of a pick-and-roll. When the offense is standing still, it’s much easier to guard, so keep that motion going.
Keep Jokic Fresh
In the loss last night to the Warriors, Jokic was 9-of-21 from the floor. On shots inside the arc, he was 9-of-13, which is just short of 70 percent accuracy. Late in the first quarter of the game, Jokic gets a pass from Hyland, and he is wide open on the wing. He puts up the shot, and it comes up short and hits off the front of the rim. Jokic went 0-of-8 from 3-point range in a game where he was scoring at will inside the arc. Even the reigning MVP can be worn down after playing his fourth tough game in five days.
Meanwhile, the night before that, midway through the fourth quarter, Jokic was putting on an absolute clinic in center scoring. He gets the ball at the top of the arc and starts to go to work on his defender. After hitting him with a couple of dribble moves to get some room to work and get closer to the basket, he puts Damian Jones into the spin cycle before eventually flipping in the layup while Jones is standing there confused as to what just happened. Keeping Jokic fresh and active throughout this stretch is going to be important.
For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.