The Nuggets are entering 2019 with the No. 1 record in the Western Conference, sporting an improved defense with their usual stellar play on offense this season. The team has worked for its success despite being hammered with injuries to key players such as Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton over the past two months.
“It’s worth enjoying,” Jamal Murray said, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “It’s something you don’t want to give up. You drop to second, ‘You’re like, damn.’ Even though we’re not really paying attention to it, it’s in your sub-conscious. We’re the top team in the West for a reason.”
The next challenge for the Nuggets, head coach Mike Malone says, is not becoming complacent and taking the success for granted.
“The moment you come up for air, the moment you become satisfied, you will fall and fall quickly,” Malone said. “That’s how close the Western Conference is. You lose three games, you can drop eight spots.”
Denver owns a 23-11 record this season, but the team is scheduled to play five games in the first eight days of 2019 — including three contests on the road. Their resiliency and attitude toward shuffled rotations have been effective so far, with players such as Isaiah Thomas and Michael Porter Jr. also not seeing any game action yet.
Thomas is expected to return at some point in the coming weeks, while Porter Jr. may be out until the 2019/20 season. Millsap, Harris and Barton are each working to get back to 100 percent after sustaining respective injuries in December.
Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:
- Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones has looked comfortable while starting at point, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. With both Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose out to injuries, Jones started for the team on Sunday against the Heat, then again on Monday against the Pelicans. He was able to notch 15 points and 13 assists in 38 minutes during Monday’s contest. “I felt great,” Jones said. “Continue to just try to make the right reads, the right plays and just play my game. Just continue to do so whether that’s shooting, playing off of other guys, getting certain guys going, no matter what it is, make sure we’re in the best position to try to win the game.”
- Kyle Korver has positively impacted the Jazz one month after being traded to the team, Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News writes. Utah holds a 7-1 record in games when Korver makes two or more 3-pointers and a 1-6 record when he makes one or less. “Since I have come on, it is a lot of me just trying to find my spot and be comfortable with how we try to play,” Korver said on Saturday, according to McDonald. The Jazz own a 18-19 record on the season.
- Michael Scotto of The Athletic explores Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s coaching style through his longtime players, including the likes of Rose, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson. Thibodeau is known for being a hard-nosed, disciplined NBA coach who prides himself on tough work and dedication. “His quote is always, ‘The magic is in the work,’” Deng said of Thibodeau. “It just tells you he’s going to put in as many hours as it takes to get it done.”