The Denver Nuggets, coming off a brutal loss in Utah against the Jazz on opening night, came home to the Pepsi Center to take on the visiting Sacramento Kings looking to get their first win of the season in front of some of the all-time great Nuggets players of the past.
With Dan Issel, Byron Beck, Dikembe Mutombo, Alex English, David Thompson and former Nuggets head coach Doug Moe being honored and in attendance the Nuggets took care of business to the tune of a 96-79 win over the Kings as they relied on their defense, and continued to grow together offensively.
Nikola Jokic – B
Jokic looked like the Jokic that finished last season as one of the best players in all of basketball to start the game as he accumulated three rebounds and three assists in the first six minutes. From the get-go, he was slicing up the Kings defense and showing off the passing touch that makes him so lethal but as the second quarter rolled around Jokic started looking uncomfortable once again and ended up with three fouls that led to him just playing 14 minutes in the first half. Jokic continued to be a positive in the second half but was not looking to score at all. It did not matter that Jokic was not scoring as the Nuggets were able to pull out a win being that he played solid defense and made plays for others. Weird, but a good game from Jokic.
Paul Millsap – B+
Like Jokic, Millsap started quickly and but he made a point to try and get his own shot. Getting Millsap going early allowed him a level of comfort that he has not shown so far in his tenure with the Nuggets. While there were obvious issues that need to be addressed within the flow of the offense, Millsap has still found ways to be productive. It was his consistent scoring that helped the Nuggets offense tread water and eventually hold on to win the game.
Wilson Chandler – B
Chandler has done close to nothing offensively but has done all of the little things while playing terrific defense and the game against the Kings was no different. He held the Kings’ wing players to very little production and was an absolute force rebounding. Overall, solid game for Chandler even without much scoring output. If Chandler can find a way to become more of an off-ball offensive threat he could be a very helpful x-factor for the Nuggets throughout the season but as long as he continues to play good defense it does not matter. That is the most important aspect of his role.
Gary Harris – B
Harris did all the things that make him so efficient. He continued to move off-ball, hit open threes, and showcased his improved handles and mid-range game while playing pesky defense all night. Harris came alive in the second half and helped Denver push their lead back into double digits. Harris continues to look like a player deserving of the 4-year extension that is worth $74 million at the minimum.
Jamal Murray – D+
Murray played more aggressively but his shot was not falling to start the game which led to his assertiveness disappearing almost immediately. Murray has not looked comfortable at all within the Nuggets offense and has been tentative far more often than he has been aggressive. Whatever has Murray playing with this lack of aggression needs to change quickly.
Mason Plumlee – C
Plumlee did not do much in terms of putting up raw numbers but was setting physical screens all night, was aggressive defensively, and did not do anything to hurt his team. While it may not have been an eye-opening performance Plumlee was a helpful player in the win over the Kings.
Kenneth Faried – A
Faried came into the game to start the second quarter and instantly provided energy and offensive rebounding as he usually does. His energy and tenacious play led directly to an 11-0 run to start the second quarter that allowed the Nuggets to regain the momentum and the lead. Not only was Faried scoring for Denver but he was able to get a monster chase-down block on De’Aaron Fox as well as a steal for good measure in just the first half. Faried continued his energetic play throughout the second half and was a big reason Denver was able to beat the Kings for their first win of the year.
Will Barton – B
You could tell immediately that Barton wanted to take it straight at the Kings and impose his will. Instead, Barton played recklessly and it led to early turnover troubles and bad shots in the first half. His erratic play continued in the second half but he was able to get a couple shots to fall and put together a solid night for the Nuggets.
Emmanuel Mudiay – C-
Mudiay started the game by traveling at half court for a turnover and continued struggling right off of the bat for the rest of the first quarter. It was looking like Mudiay was in for a bad game but rebounded nicely in the second quarter and actually finished the half as a productive piece of the Nuggets roster. The second half was much of the same inconsistencies but Mudiay still was the better point guard between him and Murray. For that, he gets a slightly higher grade.
Michael Malone – A
The Denver defense came to play against the Kings and because of that Malone gets an A for the night. After the defensive debacle of the 2016-17 season for the Nuggets to play with this level of effort on defense means that Malone has found a way to get his team to buy in. If the Nuggets continue to play with the level of aggression defensively that they showcased against the Kings they are in for a good season.