It all began when Will Barton landed awkwardly on a fastbreak layup and hurt his hip and core against the Phoenix Suns on October 20. Since then, a lingering hamstring injury to Gary Harris. A broken toe as well as ankle soreness for Paul Millsap. An ankle sprain for Jamal Murray and a controversial suspension of Nikola Jokic. Every starter has missed at least one game this season. Somehow, the incredible amount of depth the Denver Nuggets have has kept them in the top of the daunting Western Conference, but as the team begins the final stretch of the regular season, it’s time to get the opening night Starting Five back on the floor.
A huge ovation ensued from the remaining crowd at the Pepsi Center with 3:53 to go when word came over the PA saying: “Checking into the game, please welcome number eight, Jarred Vanderbilt.” This was his first action in 5-on-5 basketball since last February. 329 days ago. “I know he did not play until the end of the game and it was well in hand, but Jarred was really nervous about playing,” head coach Mike Malone explained. “He hadn’t played since last February. For him to get over that fear and to go out there and have three or four impactful minutes — I mean, that pass he made was an incredible pass — he showed you that in three minutes and 53 seconds he gets you three rebounds — he is a rebounding machine. I am happy he got those first-game jitters out of the way.” Vanderbilt finished his almost four minutes of play with one incredible assist in transition to Malik Beasley, he showed off his highly touted rebounding ability wrangling in three rebounds and the most important of all the stats, he scored his first career point, going 1-2 at the free-throw line. Vanderbilt summed it up saying “It was just amazing to get back out there and start playing again.”
A week defined by blowouts. There were 4 games on the slate for this week, all at home and the Denver Nuggets went 3-1. Key performances came from Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, and Paul Millsap brought huge lifts to the team. The MVP of the week, however, has to go to none other than Nikola Jokic. He averaged 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game. Here is your recap of each game from this week.
Since the offseason, ESPN analyst Jalen Rose has been saying that this Denver Nuggets team can be a strong contender – a dark horse, able to hold its own even with the front runner Rockets and Warriors.
The Denver Nuggets, riding the momentum of a 4-0 start, were looking to continue their strong early-season form. Meanwhile, the Lakers had just picked up win No.1 the previous before. The effects of the big fight in the Rockets game were still being felt by the Lakers as significant players remained suspended. This encounter provided some great entertainment and fun, with the 72 million people who tuned in to watch being treated with a close finish.