In their first In-Season Tournament game of the 2023-24 NBA season, the Denver Nuggets delivered a win in front of the home crowd.

The Nuggets won 125-114 over the Dallas Mavericks, improving to 1-0 in group play behind a monster effort from Nikola Jokić. The Serbian center dominated to the tune of 33 points, 14 rebounds, and nine assists, shooting an absurd 14-of-16 from the field with some impressive buzzer beaters in the process.

“The guy is just great every night,” emphasized Michael Malone postgame. “You know how hard that is? Like, is anybody in here great at their job every day? I know you guys. I know you’re not.”

Jokić was tremendous as he often is, and the Nuggets starters fed off that energy for an impressive night all around.

Here are some other takeaways from Friday night’s game:

Michael Porter Jr. had himself a game

After a relatively tough start to the season, Michael Porter Jr. had been the one starter on the Nuggets that was a little slow to get going offensively. With as many actions as Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, and Aaron Gordon use on offense, it can be difficult to get and stay involved, but Porter has continued to find ways to be impactful, especially on the defensive end.

Tonight, both the offense and defense worked well for MPJ. The 6’10” forward had 24 points on 10-of-18 from the field and 4-of-8 from three-point range. He also had nine rebounds (five offensive) and was working hard to stay active and involved. Porter spoke postgame about his jumper being affected by an ankle injury (more on that tomorrow) but still fought through it tonight.

But it was the defensive end that really stood out with Porter tonight. Luka Doncic had a great game, but the only time he struggled was when he hunted Porter on switches in isolation. Porter held up extremely well, forcing several misses and turnovers by contesting Doncic without fouling. Porter committed zero fouls on Luka, a rarity when facing the sensational Slovenian.

Porter has made such impressive defensive strides since entering the NBA. He knows where to be now, and that has helped him tremendously. The athleticism is also catching up with him with some distance away from his back surgeries, and even with a hurt ankle, he’s moving athletically like a new player.

In-Season Tournament off to a strong start

Around the NBA, there were questions as to whether the newest idea of NBA commissioner Adam Silver would be a hit. The NBA promoted it a ton, and there was clearly an effort made by the league to emphasize how competitive the games would be.

In reality, the Nuggets and Mavericks were very competitive to start this game. The Nuggets got off to a strong lead which halted some of the back-and-forth nature of a great playoff game, but there was a level of intensity and passion elevated beyond a normal regular season contest. Too often in November, teams approach games with an eye on the long term goal, but the Nuggets and Mavericks each played their starters heavy minutes tonight. They went for this game, and there were good battles on both sides.

Ultimately, the Nuggets prevailed because they’re the better team, but it was nice to see a battle in November, something that would be few and far between in previous years. In other games around the NBA, there were plenty of close battles tonight too.

Of course, not everybody felt that way.

“It felt like every other game,” shared Michael Malone, “with a really blue floor.”

Next Up

The Nuggets will be back at Ball Arena tomorrow night playing the second night of a back-to-back against the Chicago Bulls. Michael Malone shared postgame that Jamal Murray might sit based on his minute load and how he popped up on the injury report before tonight’s contest.

Final Rotations