There has been a palpable respect from Pounders since the Spurs fell to the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs in 2019. The recognition of how good this Denver squad was paired with how young their two top players were (Jamal Murray was twenty-two at the time, Nikola Jokic was twenty-four) showed a promise. That promise took another leap in the NBA Orlando bubble as the team, led by two international players came back not once, but twice from a 3-1 deficit.
The key to the Nuggets greatness lies in Jamal Murray’s ability to get his shot from anywhere he wants. He has the speed and agility Spurs fans saw in young Tony Parker. Add in the appearance of an effortless ability to hit threes at will, and defenses were stymied.
His partner in crime, The Joker, is one of the best offensive big men in the NBA. His ability to find his shot as well as pass confidently out of the double team makes him deadly. And when he does land those passes in the right hands, the result has been enough to turn around games.
Jerami Grant was one of the recipients of those outlet passes and he was sensational throughout the postseason. He reminded me of Robert Horry during the 2005 Finals. He is up for a contract negotiation and the Nuggets would be wise to entice into staying.
Paul Millsap may be getting a little long in the tooth by NBA standards, but his fire kept lighting up the opposition in the exact right moments. Skirmishes with Marcus Morris, Sr. and Dwight Howard reminded a tired Denver team that they were still in it. Millsap heads into the offseason an unrestricted free agent. It will be interesting if he looks for a big final payday or to add champion next to his name.
I am not sure how many times I heard an announcer mention that Michael Porter Jr. played by his own rule and shot threes without any hesitation, but this Spurs fan saw enough young Manu Ginobili to want to see more. Sold.
Torrey Craig, Monte Morris, and Gary Harris all had the kinds of supporting cast moments that indicate a bond forming that cannot be denied for many more postseasons. Was there an unlikeable player in Denver? Even Mason Plumlee grew on me as the postseason intensity heightened.
Any fan who enjoyed the postseason would have to ask- how much better would these guys have been with Will Barton in the mix?
And at the end of the day, something has to be said about the job Michael Malone did. Monitoring two budding superstars who played more minutes than any other players can even fathom would be enough, but adjusting when Jokic was in foul trouble as well as moving in players at the right moment (PJ Dozier anyone?) to inspire his team is the mark of a great coach.
He’s the right coach for this team and one can only hope he is slowly ushering in the next franchise to keep generational players as corner pieces of a franchise.
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