Keeler: Bones Hyland doesn’t need to start games for the Nuggets. But why isn’t he finishing them?

Look, we get why Bones Hyland isn’t starting games for the Nuggets. But why isn’t he finishing games for them?

Please, Michael Malone. We’re begging. More Bones. More fun. More silly grins. More twinkle. More magic.

More stepback treys. More daggers. More nails such as the one that No. 3 dropped from Wheat Ridge to end the first quarter of Tuesday night’s 127-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, a move that put Semi Ojeleye on skates.

More Hulk Hogan ear-cups to the crowd. More chutzpah. More showbiz. More of the pure cheek Hyland offered with 8:21 left in the game, playing to the masses and milking Ball Arena to the rafters, basking in Mile High Mania after his fourth 3-pointer of the night put the hosts up 107-95.

“Think about it — we’re a team that’s No. 6 in the West and we’re relying upon a rookie on our second unit to kind of be the Energizer Bunny,” said Malone, the Nuggets coach whose squad faces red-hot Phoenix on Thursday, after notching a mojo-saving victory late Tuesday night.

“And Bones has embraced that. And he’s done a really good job of that. And we all know Bones isn’t scared. He loves the moment. He loves the crowd.”

The crowd loves him back. For good reason.

In tight games, on big stages, you know how some guys run from the moment? Not Bones. Hyland races over and gives it a bear hug. Laughing all the way.

Does he whiff on defensive assignments? Oh, yeah. Does his brain cramp on occasion? Sure.

But the more he’s on the floor, the more corners the kid turns. Tuesday was his 11th tilt with at least four treys, which tied Jalen Green for the most among NBA rookies. Hyland posted 16 points, four treys and three assists in 18 minutes vs. one of the Western Conference’s stingiest defensive units.

Since March 1, Bones is averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.2 boards, while shooting 49.1% from beyond the arc and 49.4% overall. And from March 1 through Tuesday afternoon, the loquacious rookie ranked second among the Nuggets’ top 10 rotational players in NBA.com’s Player Impact Estimate (PIE), at 15.0, trailing only Nikola Jokic’s 22.9.

Context: Jamal Murray posted an 11.7 PIE last spring before his knee injury; Michael Porter Jr. recorded a 12.5.

Among the Nuggets who’ve appeared in at least 10 games this month, Bones’ 118.8 Offensive Rating — in layman’s terms, points scored per 100 possessions — ranked second among Denver guards behind only Austin Rivers’ 121.7.

Hyland’s overall net rating of plus-0.8, a stat that factors in his offensive efficiency (very good) and defensive efficiency (not so good) trailed only Bryn Forbes (plus-9.2) and Rivers (plus-6.3) among Nuggets backcourt options with at least 10 appearances in March.

Added context: Monte Morris scored a plus-0.7 net rating; Aaron Gordon, a negative-3.2 rating; Will Barton, a team-low negative-5.5 for the month.

“Trust is a part of our culture,” Malone said Tuesday. “And it just can’t be a word on a wall. It can’t be a word that is hollow. Yeah, we trust each other. But then (at) any sign of adversity, I don’t trust my guys? So I’ve got to live it, I’ve got to walk the walk, sometimes.

“And DeMarcus (Cousins) has been in big games, JaMychal (Green) has been in big games, Austin has been in big games, so has Will. It’s all new for Bones. Sometimes, that’s great, because he doesn’t know any better. He’s just going out there and playing his game.”

Since Feb. 1, Hyland has posted a fourth-quarter PIE of 11.5, which lags behind Jokic (21.6) and Morris (15.8) but beats Gordon (9.7), Barton (8.6), Forbes (6.8) and Rivers (4.4).

And yet Hyland’s also only averaging 6.4 minutes of floor time in the fourth quarter over that same stretch, a pace lower than both Barton (6.6) and Rivers (7.4). If we’ve got any Bones to pick with Malone as the playoffs loom, it’s that.

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