Since the end of last season, the Denver Nuggets have been focused on building a roster to take the next step and win the first title in franchise history.
After a week of trades and signings, Denver’s roster is relatively set for the final push of the regular season. Bones Hyland is out and Thomas Bryant and Reggie Jackson are in, adding veterans to a strong lineup.
The Nuggets should get a good look at their new players Monday night when they wrap up a three-game road trip against the Miami Heat.
Denver added players to start the year without making a move when Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. returned from season-long injuries, and then brought in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown to bolster the roster.
Bryant was acquired in a trade deadline deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and Jackson was bought out by Charlotte after the Los Angeles Clippers sent him to the Hornets.
Bryant played two minutes in the Nuggets’ 119-105 win at Charlotte on Saturday night but should get more action against Miami while Jackson slots in as the backup point guard.
With Murray (right knee inflammation) likely out until after the All-Star break and Aaron Gordon (rib contusion) a question mark, the two newest Nuggets could make an immediate impact.
Denver sits atop the Western Conference despite not having Murray for the last four games, but Nikola Jokic has been available and dominating. The Nuggets are unbeaten this year when he has a triple-double and he notched his NBA-high 20th on Saturday night.
It came two nights after a disappointing loss at Orlando.
“It’s really important just to get back to winning after our loss (Thursday night) to Orlando,” Jokic said.
Miami beat the same Magic team 107-103 in overtime on Saturday night to continue a trend of close games this season. The Heat are 19-11 in games decided by five or fewer points this season, and nine of their last 10 games have been by that margin.
One of those 30 games came in Denver on Dec. 30, a 124-119 Nuggets win.
Miami doesn’t seem bothered by playing in so many close games.
“They’re not afraid of the moment,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “My stomach is turning, and they love it. They love these kinds of games as competitors. That’s when they feel most alive.”
The Heat weren’t as active as Denver at the trading deadline, making one small move to send Dewayne Dedmon to San Antonio for cash considerations. Miami was considered a possible landing spot for Jackson before he went to the Nuggets.
The Heat could be a spot for Russell Westbrook, who was traded to Utah and could be bought out of his contract.
Miami could use another veteran in the backcourt with Kyle Lowry dealing with a knee issue that will keep him out at least until the All-Star break and Victor Oladipo having played in just 26 games this year. The Heat sit atop the Southeast Division but have just a three-game lead on Atlanta.
–Field Level Media