Nuggets coach Michael Malone publicly criticized the team after Game 2 loss to Heat but what did he say?
After the Heat tied the series, the Nuggets head coach shared exactly how he felt about his team’s performance and it wasn’t the kindest review ever given.
The Nuggets have been more or less unbeatable at home this season, but after a shock loss in Game 2 against the Heat, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, and that’s something their head coach simply could not tolerate.
Nuggets’ Michael Malone lays into Nuggets after Game 2 loss
Following their 111-108 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the 2023 NBA Finals on Sunday night, Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone made it clear that he was not at all happy with his team’s effort during the game. Indeed, Malone shared his thoughts on what he saw as a lack of energy and effort as the Heat managed to get a win in Denver, taking the series to an even 1-1.
“Let’s talk about effort,” Malone said post-game. “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.”
Does Michael Malone have a point?
As he publicly shared his thoughts on his team, Malone specifically pointed to the start of the fourth quarter, as the point when the game took a turn for the worse. To be clear, the Heat outscored the Nuggets 13-2 to start the quarter, with reserve guard Duncan Robinson contributing 10 of those points. In the end, the Heat’s dominance in the quarter was made clear by the fact that they outscored Denver 36-25 in the 4th. Needless to say, that was the difference maker in was on the surface a close game. To add even further wait to Malone’s argument, it was the second consecutive game in which the Heat outscored the Nuggets by double-figures in the final 12 minutes of action.
“They started the fourth quarter 13-2,” Malone said. “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.”
But wait, there’s more Denver need to address
Here’s the thing: When all is said and done, this isn’t just about a lack of effort or intensity. If we look at specifics, one has to ask how is it that the Heat were able to shoot almost 50% from 3-point range across the game. The simple answer to that question, was a failure on Denver’s part to not only focus early on, but once they did, maintain that same focus when it came to communication and defensive tasks. To that end, the Heat were able to profit off of what was largely defensive failure on the Nuggets part.
“Miami came in here and outworked us,” Malone said. “And we were, by far, our least disciplined game of these 16 or 17 playoff games. So many breakdowns. They exploited every one of our breakdowns and scored. If we’re going to try to go down there and regain control of this series and get home-court advantage back, we’re going to have to outwork Miami, which we didn’t do tonight, and our discipline is going to have to be off the charts.” Ultimately, if there is one thing that’s certain, it’s that regardless of what opinion you have about who is better between the two teams, the Heat are a team that is extremely hard to beat, and they’ve shown that during these playoffs. If the Nuggets who were favored coming into this series are to be crowned champions, they’d do well to remember that.