Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Denver’s offense is back sparking seven-game win streak. In November, Denver’s offense looked lost. Blame injuries, a changing rotation, Nikola Jokic’s conditioning, or Mercury being retrograde, what mattered is a top-10 offense from last season was bottom 10 for the month. Denver only kept winning because its defense gave up less than a point per possession.
The past seven games, Denver’s offense is back — third-best in the NBA over that stretch, using Cleaning the Glass’ numbers (which filters out garbage time). Jokic is making highlight passes, guys are moving off the ball, and every shot seems to fall. The Nuggets have won their last seven, including Monday night in Phoenix, thanks to a Jamal Murray jumper with 3.2 seconds left.
Murray finished the night with 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting. Jokic had his seventh triple-double of the season with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Denver’s win streak started with five straight games at home against teams they should beat, although there were some solid teams in there such as Portland and Oklahoma City. Then they went on the road and won a back-to-back against the LeBron-less Lakers and now Phoenix.
Maybe there is no signature win in that streak, but it has jumped Denver up to the two seed in the West, which is closer to where we thought this team would be before the season tipped-off. They have the roster and staying power to stay up in the top four through the regular season. Whether they have the talent and team to win a second-round playoff matchup will be the ultimate test, but that’s five months away.
For now, Denver has found it’s groove again and returned to being one of the most entertaining teams in the league to watch.
2) Looking for scoring off the bench, Utah trades for Jordan Clarkson. The Utah Jazz have been good this season — 18-12 after a loss in Miami Monday night — but nothing like the darkhorse threat to the Lakers and Clippers some pundits (*raises hand*) predicted before the season. Utah doesn’t scare anyone in the West right now.
There have been a few reasons for that. One of them is depth — Utah is second-worst in the league in bench scoring per game (27.1 points per game). That’s been made worse by the hamstring injury to Mike Conley, which has forced Joe Ingles into the starting lineup and robbed the bench of even more depth.
It forced Utah to make a trade, sending Dante Exum and a couple of second-round picks to Cleveland for Jordan Clarkson, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Clarkson will get Utah buckets. In his sixth NBA season, Clarkson averages 14.6 points per game, shooting 37.1 percent from three, and the Cavaliers have been +5.6 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court this season. He’s not going to be a playmaker, he’s not going to defend well, but he can get points. And that’s what the Jazz need.
The Cavaliers can take a flier on Exum, seeing if he can fit in their young-and-not-yet-impressive backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Exum is a good defender who has shown flashes on offense — when he gets rolling downhill — and should get some run with Cleveland. Plus, the Cavaliers get a couple of additional second-round picks for their rebuild. They did well in this trade.
We’ll see if this trade works out for Utah, too.
3) Tacko Fall conducted the Boston Pops. Tacko Fall is many things. Tall. A fan favorite in Boston. A guy who needs high ceilings wherever he goes. One of two NBA players from Senegal (Gorgui Dieng). A project.
He proved that last one on Monday night, when Fall stole the show at the Boston Pops, conducting the orchestra in “Sleigh Ride.” He threw in a twirl for good measure.
Maybe the most impressive feat on that stage was from the tailor who made the custom tux for Fall.
We’d all like some Tacko for Christmas, but on the road against the Raptors it seems a long shot he gets in the game.