Nuggets Journal: Bones Hyland’s career night comes in wake of valuable lesson

ATLANTA – When Bones Hyland checked out midway through the fourth quarter of Friday night’s win, Michael Malone grabbed his rookie for a hug.

Having returned after missing Wednesday’s loss due to a team violation, Malone used the moment to reinforce his bond with the infectious rookie.

“I just told him how proud I was of him,” said Malone after his team crushed the Hawks 133-115 to start their three-game road trip. “A lot of times, when things like that happen, you have a choice. You can feel sorry for yourself. He came in, had a smile on his face and he played the right way. We’ll need that every night from Bones Hyland. He has that chance to be a difference-maker.”

Against Atlanta, Hyland was. He slithered into the lane, bombed from long-range and used his handle to create for others, all en route to a career-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting. The eruption was not only a career-high, but it led their entire team.

Normally loquacious and jovial, Hyland didn’t elaborate on what spurred the violation, but his subdued answer showed remorse.

“It was a point of emphasis to myself to be locked in and just go out there and provide whatever I can,” he said, when asked whether Wednesday’s absence was on his mind.

“Lesson learned, move on from it,” he said.

Hyland seemed to have little trouble compartmentalizing his mistake as he danced with the ball and launched 3-pointers from Trae Young distance. Hyland had nearly half of the team’s 51 bench points. It was a source of scoring the Nuggets could’ve desperately used in Wednesday’s loss to Minnesota, when the Timberwolves rained in 23 3-pointers.

The truth, becoming more and more apparent as the season drags on, is that Hyland is a potential X-factor for the second unit. His speed is unlike anything the rest of the roster has, and his scoring instincts are essential to the second unit. None of the reserve guards (Facu Campazzo or Austin Rivers) can get into the lane with his ease, and no one else off the bench can create his own shot like Hyland. All three guards put unique and compromising pressure on opposing defenses.

Though Monte Morris is the team’s steadiest point guard, and a fitting complement to Nikola Jokic in the starting unit, Hyland’s a more natural scorer than even Morris.

That makes Hyland’s value, for a second unit that has too often struggled to create any semblance of offense, immense.

Asked what value he thought he brought to the team just 29 games into his career, Hyland’s answer was telling.

“Being that sparkplug, instant offense, but also being aggressive on defense, being that leader on the floor,” he said.

He wasn’t saying he’s the only leader, or the only player capable of infusing energy into the game, but he’s correct in assessing his value. He’s done it enough to know he has a significant lane in the Nuggets’ rotation.

“We’re not going to go into any of the details,” Malone said. “We missed Bones last game. We need him here. … He’s a good player. He’s helped us win games this year. We’re a better team when Bones Hyland is available. He knows that. This is a learning process for all young men. Tonight, he’s back with the team, he learned his lesson, and he helps us get a really important road win.”

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