Michael Porter Jr., Nikola Jokic knock off Warriors in final preseason game


The first time Nikola Jokic bypassed an open 3-pointer Friday night, it was curious. A second time raised a few more eyebrows.

When presented with another open 3-pointer in the second quarter, Jokic finally launched, despite a taped wrist that’s hindered his preseason. Jokic likely won’t admit how much, if at all, thats wrist has bothered him, but his play might be indicative. In fairness, he did bury one from outside in the third quarter.

Jokic wouldn’t have played in Denver’s final exhibition against the Warriors – a 119-112 win – if there was any long-term concern about exposing it to live contact. That doesn’t mean it’s not a nuisance.

Jokic and the Nuggets are going to head into next Wednesday’s season-opener at Utah with the same concerns – health – that robbed them of their chances the last two seasons. No matter how you spin it, not being able to play Jamal Murray the final three games of the preseason due to a hamstring tweak wasn’t ideal, nor was having to navigate Jokic’s wrist injury.

Nonetheless, time is up, and every game from here on out matters after Denver won its final three preseason games to finish 3-2. Here’s what mattered from Friday’s result.

Porter’s health: Of Denver’s Big 3, Michael Porter Jr. is the only one to have enjoyed zero limitations since training camp. His health and leaping ability doesn’t appear to have diminished after his third back surgery last season.

And in a weird twist, Murray’s absence on Friday may have helped harbor the budding chemistry between Jokic and Porter. On several occasions in the first half, Jokic served up looks for Porter, finding him with space or creating that space himself with a screen. Their interplay was intriguing, as was Porter’s willingness to give the ball up. The Nuggets preach, incessantly, to give the ball up and it will find you back. The last few games, it looks like Porter is buying it.

When he dropped the ball off for a streaking Aaron Gordon dunk, it was a perfect encapsulation of the selfless play the Nuggets have preached. On other occasions, he dropped it off only to get it back later in the possession.

Defensively, there was even an instance in the third quarter when he fought over a screen while defending Andrew Wiggins. Two years ago, he would’ve conceded that switch.

Porter seems to have heeded Michael Malone’s message, which is to say that defense has to warrant the same attention as his offense.

After a lackluster second quarter where the Nuggets yielded 36 points, they put the clamps on in the third quarter, outscoring the Warriors 42-20.

Second unit: Murray’s absence meant Bruce Brown earned the start, thus enhancing the starting unit’s defensive versatility but robbing the bench unit of a second ball handler.

At times, with Bones Hyland initiating, it showed. Hyland was the only real creator among Davon Reed, Christian Braun, Jeff Green and DeAndre Jordan. In the first half, there were sequences when that lineup got bogged down. With Brown available alongside Hyland, that won’t happen. It’s another reason why Ish Smith should be utilized more than a typical third-string point guard. Smith and Hyland established a rhythm in the second half.

Malone seemingly also made another determination in playing Jordan over Zeke Nnaji, despite his strong camp. Given Nnaji’s gains, it’s tough to envision him being benched entirely for Jordan. What’s more likely is a platoon system, where each game caters to their respective strengths.


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