Denver Nuggets, total machine

Malone's men, tired and without Murray, do not fail against the Spurs either and have seven consecutive victories, each time closer to third place in the West.


The Nuggets have clicked. Finalists of the West in the Florida bubble and one of the best (and funniest) teams in the NBA in recent times, were one move, a bet, from really scary, from going from outsider to contender with stripes . And they are already there: 106-96 to the Spurs and seven victories in a row, 16 in 19 games and 6-0 since that piece arrived. It was Aaron Gordon, who needs to play on a team like these Nuggets as much as the Rockies needed a forward of his characteristics. The Nuggets with Gordon are more than just the sum of Nuggets + Gordon. It's more about chemistry than math. And Michael Malone's team is already fourth in the West, behind the Lakers and their injuries, and is half a game behind the third, the Clippers (33-18 by 34-18). A racing car is coming in the West.

The last two victories have come without Jamal Murray, in back to back and in a cycle of three games in four days. Bombproof, the Nuggets looked tired, legless, for many minutes. They lost 58-68 late in the third quarter and won by 20 (103-83) after the middle of the last quarter. After that -10 they linked an 11-0 and a 23-6 in what was left of the third quarter (81-74). His pace is frenetic, his attack is in historical numbers and Michael Malone does not seem to care about anything beyond the lack of respect for Nikola Jokic by the referee. After days of complaints, increasingly public, in this game he was expelled to air his frustration because there are no star calls for the Serbian (the fouls that are usually whistled in favor of other stars). Jokic after the game told his coach that he will pay the fine that he is going to receive. He had closed the game with 25 points, 9 rebounds and 10 assists. Closer and closer to having pole position in the race for MVP.

The Nuggets are hellish choreography. Jokic has targets all over the court, moving targets that are one step ahead of defenses that end up unbound. Gordon dribbles little and moves a lot, Barton is comfortable with little responsibility and, if something was missing, Michael Porter Jr is shining in a high-efficiency scorer role, fewer touches and many points: this time 18 with 10 rebounds and a 7 / 14 in shots and, watch out, already 16 games in a row with at least 15 points and 50%. An impressive block even without the spell of Murray. The starting point guard was Campazzo, ahead of Monte Morris, and the Argentine finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 28 minutes. Where the headlines did not arrive this time, he added a bench in which (without Paul Millsap) Dozier, Morris, Green and a JaVale McGee shone who did what he has been doing for years (Warriors, Lakers ...): intensity and elasticity in small doses ( 7 points, 8 rebounds and intimidation behind) that bridge his concentration problems if he exceeds his sections on the track.

The Nuggets, almost by inertia, ended up overwhelming some Spurs who, it must be said, are for very few trots. Cast, they are already in negative (24-25) after four defeats in a row and nine in eleven games. After losing seven of a run of nine on their track, they did not win outside either. And now they have another game in Denver (back in the dentist's chair tomorrow) and a visit to Dallas on Sunday within six of the next seven games away from San Antonio. The sixth place, which avoids the play in, is already five and a half games away. Impossible. Their objective, ninth of the West, is to control that play-off zone: they are three games ahead of some Pelicans that are not exactly asking for passage. But it will cost them if DeMar DeRozan and Keldon Johnson follow down. The best in Denver were Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, with 18 points each. Little against a rival that right now is several levels above and that is a total machine, a tram from hell. And finally, a full-fledged contender plus a wonder to behold.

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