The Nuggets might to be turning a corner on the defensive end, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Denver has won six of its past seven games to move to 20-11, and the team is 12th in defensive rating over that span, up from 23rd on the season, Singer notes.
As Singer details, the third quarter of Friday’s home win over Portland was a particularly impressive defensive stretch, with the Nuggets outscoring the Blazers 35-16. Michael Porter Jr., who made his return to the lineup after a 13-game absence with a left foot injury, played a big part in that effort, as did Jamal Murray, who sat out Tuesday’s game due to knee maintenance.
“When our defense turned up, the offense is great, but I just get so excited when I see five guys locked in, on a string,” head coach Michael Malone said, per Singer.
Porter described his injury as a form of plantar fasciitis, and he finished with 18 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes, Singer adds. Murray nearly notched a triple-double, recording 25 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists and a couple steals.
Here’s more from the Northwest:
- In a subscriber-only story for The Denver Post, Singer says league-wide parity has contributed to a lack of sellers on the trade market thus far. The Bulls haven’t shown any interest in dealing away contributing players yet, but if that changes, Alex Caruso would be a nice bench upgrade for the Nuggets, according to Singer, who also thinks an upgrade over Zeke Nnaji and DeAndre Jordan at the backup five might be needed if Denver doesn’t trust either player for a postseason run.
- Four Timberwolves role players — Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell and Nathan Knight — have a special bond, and their camaraderie has helped the team during tense moments, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “I want to see the whole team succeed. But those are guys that I’m very, very close with,” Nowell said. “They’re really like blood brothers. It hits a little different when you see your family being successful.” All four are at key junctures in their careers — McDaniels is eligible for a rookie scale extension in the summer, Reid and Nowell will be unrestricted free agents, and Knight is playing on a non-guaranteed deal.
- Rookie big man Jaylin Williams, the 34th overall pick of June’s draft, sustained a concussion on Wednesday in a G League contest for the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder announced. The second-rounder is now in the league’s concussion protocol. Williams has only made seven NBA appearances thus far, averaging 3.0 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 8.7 minutes per contest, but he has been a regular with the Blue, the Thunder’s affiliate, averaging 14.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 5.3 APG and 1.4 SPG on .626/.364/.741 shooting in 11 games (30.6 MPG).