Denver’s Michael Malone has said since his first days on the job as the head coach of the Nuggets that his team had to share the ball in order to be successful. Recent stats are showing that Denver’s number of assists is a vital key to the Nuggets’ success (or lack thereof) through 21 games.
In three December games, Denver has averaged 27 assists per contest, helping the Nuggets to a 2-1 record and average of 101.3 points per outing during the month. In Denver’s 108-105 win at the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, the Nuggets had 25 assists on 37 made baskets. This followed a 30-assist night (tying the season-high in team assists) on 38 made baskets in a 106-105 road decision over the Toronto Raptors.
Malone made a concentrated effort after Monday morning’s practice at the Pepsi Center to point out the six assists Mike Miller totaled in the win over the 76ers. The veteran had tallied just seven assists all season prior to Saturday’s victory.
With a two-game winning streak and a three-game homestand ahead of his team, Malone knows the high number of assists need to continue for his Nuggets to continue their winning ways.
“What I love lately is that, if you look at our assist numbers, we’ve been 25, 27, 30 … the ball’s been moving,” Malone said. “I love the offense in terms of the last two games, we’ve scored over 100 points. That seems to be our magic number.”
Reaching 100 points is certainly the magic number for the Nuggets as Denver is 8-3 this season when breaking the century mark and 0-10 when they fall short of it. However, there’s also another important number that seems to be a tipping point for Denver’s success. When the Nuggets have 25 assists or more, they’re 7-2. Under that, they’re 1-11.
“When we score over 100, the ball is moving and the offense is moving,” Malone said. “We’re playing with pace and we’re generating high-percentage shots. It’s about ball movement and passing up good shots for great shots. We become hard to guard when that happens.”
Denver’s assist numbers have trended upward as the season has gone along, starting with 20.5 in October and 21.4 in November. Conversely, turnovers have fallen from 18.0 in October to 15.9 in November to just 11.7 in three November games.
With an 8-13 record and upcoming home games against the Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Houston Rockets, Denver will be looking to reverse a trend that has seen the Nuggets average just 20.3 assists in nine home games. Again, you need not look farther than the assist numbers to see if the Nuggets were successful in holding their home-court advantage. In Denver’s three home wins, the Nuggets have averaged 24.0 assists per game. In their six home losses, that number drops considerably to just 18.5 assists per outing, including four of Denver’s six lowest assist totals of the season.