Denver Nuggets

Michael Malone used Clippers' Game 2 win over Warriors to inspire Nuggets

Michael Malone used Clippers' Game 2 win over Warriors to inspire Nuggets

When you're getting your clock cleaned, sometimes you need something to inspire you to keep trying.

On Tuesday night, while his Nuggets were losing big in Game 2 to the Spurs, head coach Michael Malone used the Warriors' Game 2 loss to the Clippers to motivate his team.

"There was a timeout midway through the third quarter, I thought it was a pivotal point in the game," Malone told the media in Denver after the game. "We're down by 16 points and I could see it on some of the guys faces, you know, which way is this game going to go? And I reminded them we have 18 minutes to go. I reminded them what the Clippers did last night and how much basketball was left. It's only going to happen if we believe, we commit and we fight and we attack. And the guys took it to heart and we closed the game out I think on a 57-32 run from that point on."

A night earlier, the Warriors blew a 31-point lead at home against the Clippers, the largest blown lead in NBA playoff history.

As Malone stated, his speech worked. The Nuggets rallied for a 114-105 win to tie the series 1-1.

The Warriors and Nuggets, the top two seeds in the Western Conference, aren't breezing through the first round of the playoffs as expected.

[RELATED: KD, Kerr at odds over star's shooting]

Based on what happened on Monday night, the Warriors may be the ones in need of an inspirational speech.

Is Malone available?

Warriors Under Review: Champs show Nuggets why experience matters

Warriors Under Review: Champs show Nuggets why experience matters

OAKLAND – In a game with a vibe that fell slightly short of playoff intensity, yet clearly mattered more than most in the regular season, the Warriors proved they have an advantage no other team can claim.

They know how to navigate games of significance. That’s the benefit making deep postseason runs four consecutive seasons, with three ending with championships.

Their 116-102 win over upstart contender Denver on Tuesday was a study in an expert taking apart the work of a relative novice. The Warriors were brilliant at times, indifferent at others and never sensed a need for full alert.

Here are some of the positives and negatives from a victory that gives the Warriors are two-game lead over the Nuggets in the Western Conference standings.

 

POSITIVE

KD’s timely savagery

The Warriors were going about their business, wiping out an early deficit and building a lead, but there was little electricity in the air until Kevin Durant went full superhero. Durant early rim protection was good, but his three dunks over the final two minutes of the first half sent the team’s bench into a spontaneous frenzy and raised pulse rates throughout Oracle Arena.

It was as if he’d found a gear that only he has and used to show Denver it had no chance.

That Durant lately had been playing low-key but still effective hoops, this display of passion, power, and production was a welcome sight for the Warriors and their fans.

 

POSITIVE

The Boogie edge

Though the Warriors have no idea if they’ll face the Nuggets in the postseason, there is no question DeMarcus Cousins would welcome that battle. In two games against Denver and the terrific Nikola Jokic, Cousins has used physicality, activity, and psychology to own the Denver center. Jokic was stifled early and turned downright timid as the game went on.

Cousins outscored Jokic 28-10 and outrebounded him 13-6. All indications are that Cousins is “in the head” of Jokic, which would give the Warriors a huge mental edge against a team whose greatest weakness is its lack of playoff experience.

 

NEGATIVE

Spasms of horrible hoops

Steve Kerr entered the interview room with a look of utter ambivalence, satisfied by victory but mystified by his team’s insistence on providing moments that exhibit the worst of themselves.

The Warriors committed a season-high 24 turnovers, gifting the Nuggets 28 points, 15 in the second quarter, allowing Denver to slice 16 points off a deficit of 30. There were sloppy passes, aimless ball-handling, and general carelessness. Cousins had five turnovers, with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green each contributing four. Given the magnitude of the game, the negligence of details was discomforting.

The Warriors managed to build the house, but they broke a lot of bricks and windows while leaving a hole in the floor big enough to invite rats.

 

POSITIVE

The Chef keeps cooking

Curry took only 11 shots in his 30 minutes of action. He scored 17 points, fewer than either Cousins or Durant (21). Curry highlights were in accomplishing two feats of note.

One, he made five 3-pointers (in 10 attempts) to extend to nine his streak of consecutive games with at least five. The NBA record is 12, by Rockets star James Harden.

And, two, Curry surpassed Chris Mullin and moved into fourth place on the franchise all-time scoring list. With 16,236 career points, Curry needs 31 to move past Paul Arizin (16,266) and into third place.

 

NEGATIVE

Tech trouble

After the vociferous protest of a non-call in the third quarter, Durant was assessed a technical foul by Zach Zarba, the chief of the officiating crew. When Durant continued his protest for another five or six seconds, Zarba responded with a second technical, resulting in automatic ejection. KD paid dearly for apparently using “magic” words in the book of Zarba.

Durant now has 15 technical fouls this season, the same number as Green. The next technical for either will result in a one-game suspension.

With five games remaining, fingers will be crossed. The slate is wiped clean for the playoffs, so if they avoid No. 16, they get a new start.

DeMarcus Cousins again outplays talented Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic

DeMarcus Cousins again outplays talented Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic

OAKLAND -- DeMarcus Cousins did a lot of talking Tuesday night, all of it on the basketball court, and every word is bound to reach the ears of centers around the NBA.

He’s not all the way back to pre-injury levels, but the Warriors big man continues to prove he’s close enough that anyone in his way had better get ready for a long night.

Nikola Jokic was in the way. The Denver Nuggets' 7-footer is the only center in the Western Conference to be at least whispered about this season in MVP debates.

Jokic is no joke.

Yet that’s exactly what he was against Cousins, who again resorted to what must be mystical powers to wipe the floor for the second time in four weeks with the most important player on the team battling the Warriors for conference supremacy.

With Cousins owning the paint and giving Jokic 28 minutes of futility, the Warriors rolled to a 30-point lead before settling for a 116-102 victory at Oracle Arena that pushed Denver a full two games behind the Warriors in the West, with five games remaining.

After Boogie submitted a season-high 28 points (shooting 12 of 17 from the field, 2 of 4 from deep), 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals, he dressed deliberately before strolling out of the locker room and wordlessly past the interview room, out into the night, unwilling to relive his fantastic contribution.

So, instead, Draymond Green took the mic, seeming to relish every moment.

“Yeah, with a smile on my face,” Green said when asked if he was able to take note of his teammate’s work. “Just watching Cuz talk, and obviously backing up the talk he’s doing on the floor with his play. He has dominated that matchup these last couple times. It’s good to see. He kind of goes at every guy. ... Since his injury, people try to put some guys before him, and he goes at every one of them.

“So, it’s personal for him. And when you can kind of back that up with the talent that he has, it’s special to watch.”

Jokic totaled 10 points (on 4-of-10 shooting from the field), six assists, five rebounds, four steals -- and six turnovers. He was minus-10 for the game and seemed to shrink as the night wore on.

“I’ve played against him since he was in Sacramento,” Jokic said of Cousins. “Since he came back, this is the second time I have played him. He’s playing well. He’s motivated.”

Cousins was considered perhaps the league’s No. 1 center, surely on offense, prior to rupturing his left Achilles tendon in January 2018. He spent nearly a year recovering from surgery and rehabilitating -- signing a one-year contract with the Warriors in the midst of that -- and was activated on Jan. 18.

“Listen, he’s still building a foundation coming off the injury,” Stephen Curry said. “But he takes those challenges seriously. He wants to let people know he’s still DeMarcus Cousins. He can dominate a game, and tonight was another example of that.”

A little more than two months since his Warriors debut, Cousins has twice outplayed Jokic, who is averaging 20.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. The Nuggets center's 12 triple-doubles are second in the league, behind only Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.

In two games against Cousins, Jokic has 26 points (9-of-20 shooting), 12 rebounds, 10 assists and eight turnovers in 57 minutes. He was minus-29 when the teams met March 5.

Credit Cousins, who clearly summons something extra against the impressive new breed of big men.

[RELATED: Watch KD get ejected with two technical fouls vs. Nuggets]

“It was definitely a statement game for DeMarcus,” Green told NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Kerith Burke immediately after the game. “He was the best big man in this league for some years, and he’s coming back to take that.”

Cousins wasn’t in the mood to share his thoughts, and the Warriors' media relations team could not persuade him otherwise. So he let his game do the talking, and it was loud enough to be heard around the league.