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Nuggets' Michael Malone urges discipline, playing fast ahead of G3

Sep 27, 2023Sep 27, 2023

Stephen A. Smith responds to Monica McNutt's concerns about the Nuggets' effort and calls Denver the superior team. (2:05)

MIAMI -- Michael Malone didn't just harp on the Denver Nuggets' lack of discipline in their Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat.

The Nuggets' coach showed his team 17 different clips during a film session Tuesday morning of moments when the Nuggets needed to show more direction and control.

"Every clip was a discipline clip," Malone said. "Where our discipline, whether it was game plan, whether it was personnel, whether it was defending without fouling, whatever it may be, 17 clips added up to over 40 points in Game 2. That, to me, is staggering.

"What we can do better is just be a lot more disciplined in terms of the game plan, who I'm guarding. Most of that stems from communication. ... We had way too many examples, for an NBA Finals game, where we had guys not on the same page because of a lack of communication."

Entering Game 3 with the NBA Finals tied at 1, the Nuggets know they have to bring more effort after getting outworked by the Heat in key moments of their 111-108 loss at Denver. They also have to be more connected and disciplined on defense, where they allowed Miami to shoot nearly 70% and score 36 points in the fourth quarter.

Through two fourth quarters in the Finals, the Heat are shooting a combined 63.8% from the field and averaging 33 points.

"I've seen a lack of communication and discipline," Malone said. "They played zone not just in the fourth quarter, and we've been fine against it. ... We want to play fast; they want to play slow. When you're not getting stops, advantage Miami Heat because now they have their 2-2-1 press back to the zone. We're playing way too slow to try to attack that, which is forcing a lot of late-clock situations for us.

"We've got a lot of guys that have been in big games, playoff-tested, so I don't think any of it is our guys getting tight. I think it's just not adhering to the discipline that the game needs."

The Nuggets can also use Michael Porter Jr. to snap out of a slump. The forward is shooting 3-for-17 from behind the arc in the Finals. Porter played only 26 minutes in Game 2, including just over five minutes in the fourth quarter as Bruce Brown saw nearly nine minutes off the bench in the last quarter to provide defense.

"I think intensity and energy wasn't where it needed to be from me personally or really the team as a whole," Porter said. "We can talk about the mistakes that we had defensively, but really, it's about intensity."

Porter says he doesn't think he will keep missing from deep.

"I just have to play with energy and effort and I'll fall into some easy buckets off of cuts, off of transition," he said. "My 3-pointer won't keep -- I'm not going to keep missing that many 3s. I have to stay confident in myself, and if that's not falling, find other ways to help the team."

The Nuggets went to Jeff Green's home in South Florida for a team dinner Monday night and it was a nice getaway.

"All the way out in Narnia," Murray joked of how long it took to get to Green's home. "But it was a good vibe just to have everybody there, forgetting about the last game, knowing that we're here as a team, as a family, trying to accomplish something. It means a lot."

Jokic said the Nuggets will have to wait and see how they respond to Malone's criticism about their lack of effort.

But Murray remained confident that Denver will bounce back.

"We've always been a resilient team," Murray said. "We've always had that chemistry. That's one of our biggest advantages is our chemistry and how long we've been playing together, the continuity that we have, the reads that we make on the fly, no matter what the defense is doing. I would say just as long as we stay together and have that bounce-back mentality, we'll be fine.

"We've been in positions like this before. This is the first loss in [previous] seven games, I think. So we're not doing a bad job. We've just got to refocus, sharpen our mentality and like I said, be more deliberate on both ends of the floor, and we'll be fine."