Ball Movement is the Focus as Nuggets Look to End Season Strong
As the Denver Nuggets returned home following a tough road trip, it was evident to head coach Michael Malone that the team’s offense needed to get back to the basics. For a Nuggets team predicated on ball movement, the lack of high-level passing during the team’s 1-4 stretch was disappointing for Malone.
“Get back to playing Nuggets basketball,” he said, listing what the team needs to do to finish the regular season strong. “We've done it in stretches, but it can't just be every other quarter. It has to be for 48 minutes."
Before practice on Monday, Malone sat the team down and showed several clips in which the offense took a shot after making less than two passes. Malone knew that with a three-game home stand on the horizon, Denver was presented with a great opportunity to right the ship on offense.
“When we win, we play a certain brand of basketball. We can't afford to deviate from that.”
The result? A comfortable 133-107 victory for Denver that saw the offense rack up 40 assists, the most the Nuggets have had in a game since April 6, 2013.
“After the last couple of days, with the film sessions harping on ball movement, being selfless and playing for each other, for us to get 40 assists, it was refreshing and fun to watch,” Malone said after the team’s strong offensive performance.
The ball was constantly moving across the court, leading to open 3-pointers and easy layups for Denver. It is no small coincidence that the Nuggets finished the game 18-30 from beyond the arc, as they were able to use an effective drive-and-kick attack to create open shots.
"Once we get in the paint, they have to be cognizant of the lob to Mason or the pocket pass to Nikola. That makes the defense shift, so when we get into the paint, we can drive-and-kick,” Monte Morris pointed out after the win. “Everyone out there can space the floor so well."
Mason Plumlee, who led the charge with eight assists, expressed his enjoyment in the team’s ball movement. “It felt great (to move the ball). We really responded to the film, where coach pointed out some zero-pass and one-pass possessions. I thought we did a better job of sharing it tonight.”
Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokić followed suit with seven assists of his own, while Morris (6 assists) and Will Barton (5) also made significant contributions to the team’s ball movement.
“This place is really fun to play. When everybody is sharing the ball, everybody makes everybody happy. We made a lot of shots, assists too, so we played the right way” Jokić said following the win over Minnesota.
With just 16 games remaining in the regular season and the Nuggets firmly entrenched in a battle for playoff seeding, the team understands that the time is now for the offense to get back into a rhythm and carry the team to success.
“At this point, it’s a sprint. If you look around the league, all of the teams are winning right now. Everybody is playing at a high level. You have to go with your guns,” Plumlee pointed out following the win over the Timberwolves. “We have a team of high character so those guys who are on the outside looking in stay ready and we’re going to need them. We’re in a good place as a team.”
The Nuggets continue the home stand on Thursday when they welcome Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks into town. That game will tip at 8:30 p.m. MT and will be broadcasted on TNT.