The Denver Nuggets are fighting for it again.
Currently sixth in the West, the Nuggets are on that familiar path to getting to hang with the West’s elite. They took a similar route in last year’s bubble playoffs, where they survived two Game Sevens after being down 3-1 twice, only to be defeated by the eventual champs Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
Now at 21-15, they’re just outside of that elite group of teams who are “title favorites,” slowly inching closer and closer to the top after a rocky start.
In their last four games before the break (all wins), they’ve gotten better at getting stops and sharing the basketball. Nikola Jokic is still doing the Nikola Jokic thing at a very high level.
Here are his stats in the last four games:
- 20 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists
- 37 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists
- 39 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists
- 19 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists
If reading that in the last 20 seconds was breathtaking, imagine trying to stop Jokic in every possession every time he’s on the floor. Imagine trying to do that in every Nuggets game since December. Both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. have also picked it up to combat Jokic’s loneliness in fighting for a top spot.
The Memphis Grizzlies, in a similar fashion, are fighting for it again.
Currently ninth in the West, the young Grizzlies team are still tiptoeing on the outside trying to get into the big playoff picture. They barely missed the bus in last year’s playoffs, despite a heroic 20.8 points, 9.7 assists, and 6.1 rebounds per-game averages from Ja Morant.
Memphis opened up the second half of the season with a win over the Washington Wizards, which was good, but tracking Ja’s trajectory is even better.
Here are his stats from the last three games:
- 21 points, 6 rebounds, 10 assists
- 35 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
- 35 points, 5 rebounds, 10 assists
Equally breathtaking stuff. He’s also received a big boost from Jonas Valanciunas’ paint dominance and a recent hot hand sighting from Desmond Bane that helped Memphis win the last three of four.
Ja’s Grizzlies and Jokic’s Nuggets are both fighting for their place in an extremely suffocating Western Conference.
Will Jokic again turn into a futuristic human Swiss knife that nobody has figured out yet? Can Valanciunas put a stop to the Jokic madness? Will Michael Porter Jr.’s wave of double-doubles and overall efficiency continue? Will Ja reach in his bag of tricks—or better yet, what new trick will Ja pull out in a marquee matchup against Jamal Murray? Will these two teams be in fight mode to improve their Western Conference status?
The Nuggets and the Grizzlies will provide answers tomorrow at 9:00 AM on TV5.