DENVER — As the Nuggets continue to lose, more questions are being raised about how they are going to be able to compete this season.
With practice now through the latest loss Friday night at home to the Clippers, what’s more concerning is what’s happening without Nikola Jokic.
The Nuggets had an awful first quarter, shooting 29 percent from the field, and they lost to the Clippers 100-80, extending their losing streak to four games, with their new center sitting the entire first half because of what coach Michael Malone called a nagging groin injury. The Nuggets also host the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and by then, a status update on Jokic’s injury will be available.
“We’ve got to get through another loss tomorrow night, then get him on the floor,” Malone said. “That’s the only solution right now, without him.”
Jokic sat the entire first half Friday night.
With Jokic sitting, Timofey Mozgov started in place of Jokic, with Jusuf Nurkic coming off the bench. It was the second game in a row Jokic sat for multiple periods because of his injury, and there have been no reports that it’s not bothering him anymore.
“He’s a work in progress,” Malone said. “Just has to play, and make sure he’s right and 100 percent before he plays. When we spoke to him last night, he wasn’t 100 percent, so we’re just being precautionary with that groin. I’ve spoken to him a couple times in the last hour and he’s still not feeling 100 percent.”
Jokic picked up his fifth foul with 8:26 remaining in the second quarter and returned to the bench with 2:42 remaining before halftime. After the Nuggets went scoreless for almost five minutes in the second quarter, taking a 14-point deficit into halftime, Jokic entered to a chorus of boos from Nuggets fans.
The plan Friday night was for Jokic to rest against the Clippers. However, the Nuggets knew this coming season might be different.
“You’ve got to bring in new guys,” Malone said. “… We have to figure out a way to play without him.”
“He’s a better player than in the game,” Malone said. “He’s going to be his defense. … He’s got to let it go, because when he plays, he plays. When he plays, it’s a team game, it’s not just him.”
Also missing Friday night was forward Wilson Chandler, who is suffering from soreness in his right wrist.
“We have to find a way to play without him,” Malone said. “So we have to get through another loss tomorrow night, then get him on the floor, and make sure he’s right and 100 percent before he plays.”
As far as starting and rotating big men in Jokic’s absence, Malone said he would work the minutes out that way.
“We have to find a way to play without him,” Malone said. “… We have to get through another loss tomorrow night, then get him on the floor, and make sure he’s right and 100 percent before he plays.”
For now, the Nuggets will continue with Mozgov and Jokic sitting, Mozgov starting and Jokic coming off the bench.
“We got to figure out a way to play without him,” Malone said. “… We have to find a way to play without him.”