Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. struggles for second straight game: “We need Michael.”


DALLAS – Before Michael Porter Jr. left the arena late Friday night, he sat at his locker engaged in an extended conversation with an unlikely source.

Reserve forward Vlatko Cancar spent considerable time talking with Porter, who struggled through a second consecutive unsettling shooting night. Porter finished just 4 of 15 from the field for 10 points, and only 1 of 5 from 3-point range. Over the last two games – both losses and both without two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic – Porter’s combined for just 5-of-23 shooting for 15 total points.

In the last two games, Porter’s taken uncharacteristic shots, attempted looks despite blanket defensive coverage, and missed an unusual number of attempts he’s accustomed to making. Functionally, it’s the effect of missing both Jokic and Jamal Murray, who each entered health and safety protocols ahead of Friday’s rout in Dallas. Aaron Gordon missed the game as well due to a non-COVID illness, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone suggested there was a chance he’d be available for Sunday’s round two against Dallas.

But as Porter sat at his locker and conversed with Cancar, it wasn’t hard to consider how much weight he was feeling as the primary option in an offense that, at least temporarily, has been gutted.

“We need Michael,” Malone said after the game when asked how to help him re-gain his spark.

Acutely aware of the three starters Denver was missing, Malone made an astute point on the gravity Porter had faced over the last two games.

“I think it also speaks to the value and greatness of Nikola, how he gets guys so many easy looks because one, he attracts so much attention and he’s a great and willing passer,” Malone said. “While Nikola is not here, we have to find ways to try to get Michael some easy ones, and I think Michael’s gotta help himself at the same time. … Make or miss, continue to play hard, compete and fight.”

Against the Knicks, his lone made bucket was a corner 3-pointer off a feed from Murray. When open, it’s the kind of shot he rarely misses. Against Dallas, there were even better examples of how to free him up. Early in the second quarter he scored a transition layup after snatching a defensive rebound. Later in the quarter, he ran the floor hard, spaced to the corner as the Nuggets have preached and was rewarded with a feed from Jeff Green. Porter stepped into his shot confidently and buried it.


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