Going into the season, many of us had the Denver Nuggets pegged as a sleeper, of sorts, to win the West. Sure, the two L.A. teams are both loaded with star talent, but the Nuggets were the breakout team last season and boast a legitimate MVP candidate in Nikola Jokic.
But a middling start to the new season has them suddenly searching for answers. They’re now 3-2 through the first five games and they’ve dropped two straight, including an ugly 122-107 blowout loss to the previously-winless Pelicans on Thursday.
Afterward, Mike Malone sounded off on his team’s lack of effort, particularly in transition, where they gave up the most points they’ve allowed during his tenure as a head coach.
“I’m embarrassed,” Malone said at his postgame news conference, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “That was an embarrassing effort defensively. Gave up 37 fast-break points. You can give all the transition defense rules that you want. To me, transition defense boils down to one thing: effort. Get back. You can tell them. You can lead a horse to water, whatever analogy you want to use. We did not get back.”
There was one play in particular that set Malone off midway through the fourth quarter. With his team down 19 and coming out of a timeout, Jamal Murray threw the ball away and then allowed Jahlil Okafor to take it all the way in for a layup.
Not sure what's up with Nikola Jokic right now, but he sure didn't seem happy with this Jamal Murray pass as things fully slipped away from Denver last night. pic.twitter.com/lLl2HJmcMB
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) November 1, 2019
Later, Malone ventured that his team has let all the talk get to their heads and is challenging them to focus on taking action to get where they want to be.
“We’re a great talk team. We can talk before the season starts about all the things we want to accomplish, and we want to be a contending team,” Malone said. “It’s all bulls*it. Don’t tell me about it, show me. And right now we’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t showing me much.”
The Nuggets will look to get back on track as they travel to Orlando to face the Magic on Saturday.