Nuggets Notes: Malone, Jokic, Strategy, Game 3

Nuggets coach Michael Malone was incredulous about the way his team approached Game 2 of the NBA Finals, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. With a chance to take control of the series, the Nuggets came out flat Sunday night, allowing Miami to start the game on a 10-2 run.

“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,” Malone said. “This is the NBA Finals. That to me is really, really perplexing, disappointing.”

Malone was particularly upset about “miscommunication, game-plan breakdowns, personnel breakdowns” that enabled the Heat to shoot 17-of-35 from three-point range. He cited slow rotations and called for his players to start making contact with Miami’s shooters as soon as they cross mid-court.

“Those are guys that we are supposed to have a heightened awareness to,” Malone said. “As I mentioned after Game 1, the fact that they got 16 wide-open threes was concerning. They didn’t make them. So we got lucky in Game 1. ”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Nikola Jokic had 41 points Sunday night, but Miami was able to disrupt the Nuggets’ offense by turning him into more of a scorer than a passer, notes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Jokic had 10 assists by halftime in Game 1, but only four overall in Game 2. “They just put us in their rhythm,” Jokic said. “And we didn’t want to play that way, and they want to, obviously. But maybe just to play a little bit faster is going to help us.”
  • Malone explained his decision to not call a timeout on the final possession of the game with his team trailing by three points, per Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. Denver wound up with a step-back three-point shot by Jamal Murray that spun out. “Some nights, yeah, I think we can take the timeout,” Malone said. “Other nights, give our guys the freedom to get out and run. But with how well they were guarding in that quarter and how hard it was for us to generate looks, I felt in that transition we had the best chance to get the look that we wanted.”
  • Sunday’s game marked the Nuggets’ first home loss of the playoffs and the first time they haven’t held a 2-0 lead in a series, states Parker Gabriel of The Denver Post. The team will be facing real adversity for the first time in the postseason as the series resumes Wednesday at Miami. “I think we understand what’s at stake,” Jeff Green said. “They did what they were supposed to do. They came in here, got a split. Now they’re going home, and I think we have to go in there worried about Game 3. We can’t worry about Game 4. We have to worry about Game 3.”
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