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Vinny Benedetto | Denver Nuggets Insider, The Denver Gazette

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence
The Truth Network Radio
May 15, 2024 6:04 am

Vinny Benedetto | Denver Nuggets Insider, The Denver Gazette

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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May 15, 2024 6:04 am

Denver Gazette Nuggets insider Vinny Benedetto joins the show after the Nuggets win Game 5 over Minnesota, and regain control of the series 3-2.

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Download June's Journey now on your Android or iOS device or play on PC through Facebook games. We are pleased to welcome Nuggets insider from the Denver Gazette, Vinnie Benedetto. Vinnie, how did Joker have his way with Rudy Gobert tonight?

Yeah, I think it starts with matching the physicality. Rudy's a four-time defensive player of the year for a reason and he plays with such force defensively and I think Nicole Jokic respects him for what he can do defensively and that kind of forces Jokic to raise his level even a little bit to have that kind of success against Rudy. But, you know, over the last couple years we've seen, you know, Rudy can get frustrated with the officials at times and so I think Nicole has just become really good at using Rudy's physicality and aggressiveness against him in terms of, you know, using a pump fake to get Rudy in the air. And he'll take the foul and tonight he was drawing fouls, he was finishing through contact and like, you know, Joker made it look easy at times but there are also a few sequences where he, you know, I'm thinking late in the third quarter, he just had a series of really tough finishes. A couple of them were three-point plays and then when he goes two of three from three and eight of nine from the line, he just kind of got everything going and I'm not sure there's anyone on this planet who really has an answer for him when he's operating at that high of a level.

And I do love his dry sense of humor. You asked him about his dunks in the last couple games. What was his response? He told me he was a freak of nature and, you know, why not showcase his athleticism. So, you know, he was in a pretty good mood tonight. He did acknowledge that tonight at least he had a pretty wide open lane there. But I was curious, you know, if it was something about Gobert and Towns and just the size that Minnesota has and the rim protection they can kind of throw out there if that forced him to, you know, be a little more authoritative with his finishes. But he didn't play into that at all.

He was in a joking mood. How much does confidence play into this with the Nuggets versus the Timberwolves or really versus the rest of the West? Not just because they're defending champions, but because they keep doing this. It seems like they are one of the toughest outs in sports right now.

Yeah, and they just have a bunch of experience with, you know, their backs being against the wall. You know, you think back to the bubble, I think they were, you know, the only team in NBA history to come back from two 3-1 deficits in the same postseason. And, you know, there aren't really many guys left over from that bubble team.

You look back, I think it's, you know, it's Joker, it's Jamal Murray, it's Michael Porter Jr. But, you know, this postseason they dropped the first two at home to the Timberwolves. And I think, you know, they've got an opportunity to be the fifth team ever to drop the first two at home and potentially, you know, end up winning that series.

So, they're kind of comfortable with their backs against the wall and it has a way of bringing out their best. So, I think you couple the experience they have with adversity with the confidence gained last year in that championship run where they lost one game at home and they managed to win a road game in all four of their playoff series. I think that combination just has, you know, belief is never in short supply with this Nuggets team. Thinking about the fact that they dropped the two at home beforehand, so this was the first home win in this series for either team. How much changed between that game and this game five tonight?

The last one they played at home before tonight? Yeah, I mean, I think the most jarring thing that stands out is the Nuggets ability to not just match the physicality but even exceed it and kind of take the fight to the Timberwolves looking back at that game two. And, you know, I think Reggie Jackson said it a handful of times, but Minnesota just punked them in that game two. And, you know, I remember going into game two thinking, all right, the Timberwolves got game one.

They could be content with where they sit if it goes back to Minnesota 1-1. They were without Rudy Gobert who had just, you know, welcomed his first child earlier that day. So I think, you know, I certainly thought this and maybe that thought crept into the Nuggets head that they would see a content Timberwolves team. But, you know, they got the opposite. The Timberwolves were hungry. They were aggressive. They were physical. The referees allowed a certain level of physicality in game two. And I think we saw for the most part that that same level of physicality allowed tonight in game five. But the Nuggets were just up to the task of, you know, not letting the physicality take them out of the game. And they responded and, you know, kind of put the Timberwolves on their heels with their own physicality. Aaron Gordon deserves a good amount of credit for that tonight. The way he was attacking the rim and stretches was borderline reckless at times. But, yeah, it just felt like the Nuggets set the tone in that department tonight and that played a big role in their win. It is amazing how much energy he brings.

I know Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are the one, two. And when Joker is on the bench, the team does tend to struggle a little bit. But when Aaron Gordon has that energy and that burst, that athleticism, as you say, he's pursuing boards, man, he is such a difference maker. Yeah, he's kind of the glue guy for this team. He's got an ability to kind of meet the moment. If somebody else is struggling with their offensive efficiency, he's got a way of thinking back to game four. He stepped up huge and played a near perfect game.

I think, you know, he finished 11 to 12 from the field on a night where, you know, some of the other guys didn't have it going. So he's just been kind of been able to provide whatever the team needs. And, you know, on a nightly basis, that's the effort, the energy, the hustle and, you know, his versatile defensive ability. They've switched him from Carl Anthony Towns to Anthony Edwards when Ant's been, you know, getting hot throughout games. So, you know, the constant things the Nuggets need from Aaron Gordon, like I said, are, you know, just the energy and the muscle he provides.

And, you know, sometimes they need a little bit more. And, you know, throughout, for as long as he's been in Denver, really, he's been able to kind of scale up his game as needed. Vinnie Benedetto is with us from Denver after waiting for Joker to take a sweet old time in a post MVP award shower and then his comments.

It's after hours with Amy Lawrence. Did Joker provide anything interesting after all the time he made you guys wait? Oh, no, we're used to waiting in Denver for him. He's got a very, very long post game routine that includes weightlifting and stretching and, you know, some rehab and then he showers and gets into his suit and comes and joins us. But we've heard, you know, Michael Malone earlier in the night said, Jokic belongs to Mensa and he doesn't even know what Mensa is. And Jokic, you know, pretty quickly shot down the notion that he is a genius and did not want to play into that at all.

But I think we've seen, you know, the last couple of years there is some there's some basketball brilliance on display. But, you know, he was his typical understated self. He mentioned how, you know, the receiving the MVP award and having the home crowd there to chant MVP at levels that drowned out. Whatever Adam Silver had to say is something that he's going to he's going to remember for for the rest of his life.

But, you know, he wasn't providing any bulletin board material. He wasn't he wasn't feeling himself too much after after leading the Nuggets to a 3-2 lead. If you had to tell an alien, a visitor to our planet, why Nikola Jokic is the best player in the world, why he just captured his third MVP in four years, how would you do it, Vinnie?

I think I'd try to explain what a supercomputer is and try to tell them that he's got it between his ears. He's just seen so many different defensive looks and, you know, you watch him enough and you can see kind of the wheels in motion where some team will throw something different at him. And it might take him might take him a quarter, a quarter and a half, maybe a half of a game to really crack the code. And, you know, during that time, he might he might try some stuff and like explore the game a little bit. And that might lead to a missed shot or a turnover here and there.

But once it clicks for him and he finds the solve, then it's kind of over for whatever strategy that might be. I'm thinking back to last year's postseason. The Lakers felt like they had found something with with what was famously called the Ruya Hatchimora adjustment.

I believe that was late in game one where the Lakers kind of made a surge or maybe a game two. But, you know, to start the following game, it was obvious that Nikola had had figured out that game plan. And he's really pretty consistent with his ability to do that, regardless of what is thrown at him. You know, to his point earlier today, he's not a freak of nature. He's got he's got great size and length, obviously, and tremendous hand eye coordination. But he's not the explosive athlete we typically think about when we think about the best basketball players in the world. So I think for him, the most outstanding thing is just his ability to process things mentally. And then once he gets a defense in rotation, he's not making the obvious pass. He's doing steps two, three and four really quickly to kind of exploit the defense at its most vulnerable spot. It is funny, though, that people tend to take points away, so to speak, from him as an MVP or even begrudgingly give him credit for being the best player on the court simply because he looks at times awkward when he moves. Yeah. And it's something that you kind of just get used to.

And I remember, you know, thinking along the same lines before it was my job to watch him on a nightly basis because you catch him at the wrong time. And, you know, sometimes it looks a little awkward when he's, you know, like decelerating and getting to a euro step or, you know, sometimes somebody just has a beat on him and has a read and he gets a shot blocked into the third row or throws a lazy pass that, you know, a guy like Anthony Edwards jumps the route and takes it, you know, for a transition dunk and you're like, oh yeah, that's the kind of physical giftedness we think about a lot of times when we look at, you know, MVPs or best player on the world debates. But you watch the guy enough and it's like what he's got between the ears more than makes up for whatever he lacks in terms of traditional basketball athleticism. Vinnie, before I let you go, and I'm not assuming they're going to advance past the wolves, still some work to do, but of the teams remaining in the NBA playoffs, who gives the Nuggets the toughest challenge?

Yeah, I mean the easiest answer, and this is skipping a couple steps, but I think it starts with Boston. You know, going into the playoffs, I would have said Minnesota would be this team in the Western Conference that is best suited to give the Nuggets trouble because they've got so much size in the front court. They've got a few really, really strong perimeter defenders in, you know, Anthony Edwards when he's engaged on that end can be really special defensively.

Jayden McDaniels and Nikhil Alexander-Walker both have the length in athleticism. We've seen them pressure Jamal Murray, the length of the court at times, just trying to disrupt his rhythm or take some shots or force the Nuggets to get laid into the shot clock. And then you look at the other Western Conference final, and I just feel like should the Nuggets get there, you know, both of those teams have some pretty significant questions to answer inside. You know, Chet Holmgren's great, super promising player, but you know, I'm just not sure he has the bulk to withstand Nicole Jokic over the course of the series.

And then Dallas, you know, Derek Lively is a rookie, and Daniel Gafford, when he was in Washington earlier this year, I think Joker gave him a 40 piece in Washington earlier this season. So, you know, both of those teams I think would have to get really experimental defensively to contend with Denver's size. You know, the two Celtics-Nuggets games this year, Denver won both, but they were both really high level games. And you know, if they can get Kristaps Porzingis back healthy, I think Boston's the team, if the Nuggets can get past Minnesota, I think Boston's the team that can give Denver the best shot, and I think that would be a heck of a final if we can get there. Yeah, well it's interesting that you mention Kristaps Porzingis, because I've just come back from two weeks away, he had just gotten hurt, and that's the first thing that popped into my mind when you said Boston.

Not without KP, they built this so that they would have a better inside presence after their last couple years of being disappointed in the postseason. Alright, great stuff from Vinny, it's been a really long day and night for Vinny Benedetto, you can follow him on Twitter at VBenedetto, B-E-N-E-D-E-T-T-O, covering the Nuggets and Joker as they attempt to repeat for the Denver Gazette. It's great to have you on the show again, thanks so much for a couple of minutes Vinny. Awesome, appreciate it Amy. Dive into the start of summer at Whole Foods Market. Check out their summer splash event with sales on fresh organic produce, organic strawberries, and a fan favorite sale on Ben & Jerry's and Tolenti. Explore deals on grill-friendly meats like organic air-chilled chicken breast, beef and chicken kebabs, all with no antibiotics ever from our meat department. Plus, grab easy sides from prepared foods and cool off with refreshing drinks.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-15 07:25:24 / 2024-05-15 07:32:11 / 7

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