Denver Nuggets, NBA Playoffs

Michael Malone calls out Denver Nuggets effort after Game 2 loss

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone criticized his team’s effort after they dropped Game 2 of the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat.

The Denver Nuggets made it to the NBA Finals in their history, playing like they have before during Game 1 last Thursday. Behind a triple-double performance by Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets picked up the 104-93 victory over the Miami Heat. From the way they played, it looked as though it would be a short NBA Finals.

But on Sunday night, Denver had a rough showing against Miami. The Heat’s role players stepped up, while the Nuggets’ comeback attempt was too little, too late. The Heat tied things up with the 111-108 win, and the series now heads to Miami.

After the game, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone didn’t mince words when discussing his team’s effort. And by discussing the Nuggets’ effort, we mean criticizing his team’s effort.

Michael Malone criticizes Nuggets’ effort in Game 2 NBA Finals loss to Heat

“Let’s talk about effort,” Malone said, h/t ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “This is the NBA Finals. We are talking about effort. That’s a huge concern of mine. You guys probably thought I was just making up some storyline after Game 1 when I said we didn’t play well. We didn’t play well.

“Tonight, the starting lineup to start the game, it was 10-2 Miami. Start of the third quarter, they scored 11 points in [just over two minutes]. We had guys out there that were just, whether feeling sorry for themselves for not making shots or thinking they can just turn it on or off — this is not the preseason, this is not the regular season. This is the NBA Finals. That, to me, is really, really perplexing, disappointing.”

While Malone did bring up how the team played at the start of Game 2 and the beginning of the second half, he took issue with Denver’s play in the fourth quarter. Not just on Sunday night, but also back on Thursday for Game 1.

“They started the fourth quarter 13-2. To me, the wheels really fell off to start that fourth quarter. They were getting whatever they wanted, 3s, layups, and that allowed them once again to sit back in their zone offense, slow the game down, and we had a hard time getting stops — and then we had a hard time getting made baskets on the other end.

“Our defense has to be a hell of a lot better. That’s two fourth quarters, Game 1 and Game 2, where our fourth-quarter defense has been nonexistent.”

Through the first two games of the NBA Finals, the Nuggets have been outscored 66-45 in the fourth quarter. That is certainly a concerning statistic. Yet, in Game 2, the Nuggets were a Jamal Murray three-pointer made at the buzzer away from forcing overtime.

The Heat’s starting lineup had four players put up double-digit points, with three of them scoring over 20 (Jimmy Butler, Gabe Vincent, and Bam Adebayo). Meanwhile, the Nuggets had three double-digit scorers, but two of them were unable to crack over 20 points (Murray and Aaron Gordon). Jokic scored 41 points and went 16-for-28 from the field, but it wasn’t enough.

On Wednesday, the Nuggets will be on the road in Miami, looking to retake the lead in the Finals. Malone certainly hopes that there will be a better effort from his team. If not, you can expect him to call them out again.

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