Good, Bad & Awesome: Jokic and Porter give the Nuggets their first win in the bubble

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Aug 3, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) and forward Torrey Craig (3) celebrates after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in a NBA basketball game at The Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets lost their first game in the bubble badly to the Miami Heat and were in a bounce-back position. Unfortunately Denver was down multiple starters against a team in the mix for the No.3 spot in the Western Conference as well as a division foe in the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder came out firing on all cylinders, but Michael Porter Jr., who was catapulted into the lineup due to all of the injuries, kept Denver in the game on a career night for the rookie.

Nikola Jokic also had himself a night as he picked up his 13th triple-double on the season and buried Oklahoma City late.

After a 121-113 overtime win for the Nuggets, I give you the good, bad, and awesome.

Good – Michael Porter Jr. goes nuclear

With the Nuggets banged up in the first game back after a long hiatus, Denver looked to their promising rookie. Porter got the start in Denver’s first seeding game against the Miami Heat and struggled mightily, which led to Nuggets head coach Michael Malone to say that he needed more from the No. 14 pick in the 2018 draft.

In Denver’s second seeding game, however, the rookie showed precisely what makes him a special player as he had a career-best night.

“I just wanted to bring energy and not worry about scoring. I just wanted to empty it all out,” Porter said after the game.

Porter got off to a hot start and kept Denver in the game early on when he finished with 12 points in the first quarter alone on 4-5 shooting from the field.

Porter made it a point to get himself going inside early as he finished well around the rim, cut without the ball, and was active on the defensive end of the floor as he came up with an early steal and a block as well.

That hot start kept Denver afloat in the game early on and they rode their rookie to the finish line.

In the second half, Porter was just as sensational as he continued to look for his shot as well as attack the boards.

Porter Jr. finished with a career-high 37 points in the game, and he also grabbed 12 boards to go along with it.

When Porter Jr. is aggressive and looking for his shots, he is difficult to contain, and it gives the Nuggets another weapon. He can play both inside and out, he shoots the ball exceptionally well, and that in turn spaces out the floor. He also played great defense in this game. That is notable because his defense has been his Achilles’ heel and reason for not playing as often as he would like.

In Monday’s game against the Thunder, he put it all together showing signs of the future and giving the Nuggets their first win since March 9th.

Bad –  Nuggets remain banged up

With more than four months off, remaining healthy was not one of the main concerns with the Nuggets as it gave players time to heal up.

However, in the first two games to restart the season, the Nuggets have not been able to be at full strength, and based on comments by Malone, it may be that way until the playoffs begin.

The seeding games are not only about winning games for playoff seeding, but also getting back into the swing of things before making what the Nuggets hope is a deep playoff run.

Denver however, is not able to build chemistry or even be thoroughly evaluating their team because they have been down three starters in both seeding games, which has caused Malone to switch some things up.

Both Will Barton III (right knee soreness) and Gary Harris (right hip muscle strain) did not play in the first two seeding games, and there are no updates on when they will be playing.

Jamal Murray played in one scrimmage game before sitting down with left hamstring tightness. He said he is unsure of when it happened, does not know when he will return, but that he remains closes to returning.

With three starters down, the motto is “next player up.”

Porter Jr. stepped up in Monday’s game, but not having Murray and Harris in the starting group forces one of the best second units in the league to have to make changes.

Denver hopes to head into the playoffs with their team at full strength so hopefully they can get them all back for a couple of games to make their run.

Awesome – Nikola Jokic comes alive

Porter and Jokic were in desperate need of bounce-back games after not playing well in their previous game against Miami and they responded well against the Thunder.

Both of those players were on fire in Monday’s game and helped secure the victory.

Denver elected to go through Porter early on, but after a sluggish start Jokic came alive and put together one of his best performances of the season.

Jokic picked up his 41st career triple-double after a massive stat line of 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Jokic saved his best for last as he demanded the ball in overtime and finished with eight points to close the Thunder out.

With both Porter and Jokic on at the same time, it negated the fact that the Nuggets were down multiple starters. Both players were looking to get shots, getting to the rim, and applying pressure to the Thunder defense.

Jokic will have to roll this aggressive play into the next game and beyond for Denver to have a chance come playoff time. When he is playing at this level, there are not many teams in the league that can stop him — and that was without shooting the ball as well as he is accustomed to. Denver bounced back and picked up a much-needed win, and that was while getting two of their best offensive weapons going.

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