The NBA was busy last night with 14 games on the docket. All five Northwest division teams were among the clubs in action. The Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Minnesota Timberwolves picked up victories last night.
NBA Rumors and Notes: Keyontae George, Walker Kessler, Draymond Green and Jamal Murray
Keyonte George Gets First Start For Jazz
With Walker Kessler ruled out for Utah’s game against the Indiana Pacers, Jazz head coach Will Hardy decided to shuffle up the lineup. Instead of inserting backup center Kelly Olynyk in the starting lineup, Hardy handed rookie Keyonte George’s first career NBA start on his birthday. George officially started in place of Talen Horton-Tucker at point guard.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) November 9, 2023
Before Wednesday’s night game, George had a valuable member off the bench for Hardy. As expected, the 20-year-old — the No. 16 overall pick in 2023 — has struggled in his first eight games off the bench. However, he has shown flashes of his ability to score and distribute.
George wasn’t the only new starter against the Pacers. Ochai Agbaji got the start at small forward, pushing Lauri Markkanen to power forward while John Collins slid over to center. Jordan Clarkson remained at shooting guard with the first unit.
Agbaji, who started 22 games as a rookie last season, had been regulated to the second unit this year and averaged 14 minutes a game. Known as a sharpshooter entered Wednesday night’s contest, shooting 33.3% from the field and 31.6% from the 3-point line.
Walker Kessler To Miss At Least Two Weeks With Elbow Strain
Kessler missed the loss to the Pacers due to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, according to a team press release. The Jazz said that the 22-year-old will be reevaluated in two weeks.
According to the Jazz, Kessler initially sustained the injury during the team’s season opener on October 25. However, the injury wasn’t formally diagnosed until recently, when the 7-1 center underwent an MRI. He had been playing through discomfort the past couple weeks. Kessler is expected to participate in non-contact activities over the next two weeks to facilitate his recovery.
Kessler is a force on the offensive glass and as a rim-protector. While he has struggled a little offensively, Kessler has shown some growth on that end. He scored 22 points on 10 of 11 shooting against Denver and set a franchise record with 11 offensive boards versus Chicago on Nov. 6.
Utah fell to 2-7 on the season with the 134-108 setback to the Pacers. It was the Jazz’s fourth straight loss and fifth consecutive on the road.
It will be interesting to see if Hardy keeps the same lineup as last night in the next six games — the minimum number of games Kessler is expected to miss. My guess is that George will remain at point guard, as he did an excellent job distributing the ball while not turning the ball over. George finished the game with seven points, on 3 of 8 shooting from the field, a career-high nine assists, and one turnover.
Olynyk is really the only big off the bench that Hardy trusts, as Luka Semanic and Omer Yurtseven didn’t play on Wednesday. Semanic has only seen 16 minutes over four appearances, and Yurtseven has been on the court 31 minutes in six games.
Nuggets Defeat Warriors Without Jamal Murray
Denver, 8-1, picked up its fourth straight victory with a 108-105 win over Golden State (6-3) despite being without star guard Jamal Murray for a second straight game. Nikola Jokic recorded his eighth double-double with 35 points and 13 rebounds, while Reggie Jackson, who started in place of Murray for a second straight contest, added 20 points.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Murray is expected to miss three-to-four weeks due to a right hamstring strain.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 8, 2023
Murray sustained the injury in the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Chicago.
“We’ll kind of continue to talk to our doctors, but his injury is not a one- or two-game injury,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone told Bennett Durando of the Denver Post. “That’s what I do know. This will be something that will be longer than we would like.
“… You have to have the big picture in mind and make sure we’re putting him in position to get healthy before he comes back. Because this is an injury that, if you keep having recurring hamstring injuries or soft tissue injuries, they can linger and become even worse. And that’s the one thing we do not want to happen.”
The loss of Murray, who was off to a strong start, is a massive blow to Nuggets depth. While Jackson is a capable starter, he was the only reliable scorer for the Nugs off the bench early in the season. Collin Gillespie expects to continue to see an uptick in minutes as the Nuggets only other point guard on the roster. Gillespie, on a two-way contract, has seen 33 minutes over the last two contests. Undrafted out of Villanova, Gillespie missed all of last season after fracturing his leg last July.
Golden State Was Also Shorthanded
The end of a four-game road trip in Denver just got a lot tougher. No Draymond Green (personal reasons). Gary Payton II is questionable (illness)
GP2 has been huge. Warriors will need players like Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody to have big games
— Dalton Johnson (@DaltonJ_Johnson) November 8, 2023
With Green out, Dario Saric got the start at power forward. Saric, who has played well off the bench, contributed four points, eight rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes. He was 2 of 5 from the field, with all three misses coming from beyond the arc.
Despite not having Saric and Payton with the second unit, the Warriors’ bench was still productive. The Dubs’ reserves tallied 42 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, while the Nuggets’ bench totaled 12 points and eight boards.
Golden State’s bench ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring and first in rebounds.
With the loss to Denver, Golden State ended its four-game road trip with a 2-2 record. The Warriors are 5-2 away from home on the season.