Nuggets’ Michael Malone hints at changes following Bulls’ loss

CHICAGO — Monte Morris said Monday’s reoccurring nightmare felt like the Nuggets were trapped inside a movie.

“It’s like an episode of Space Jam or something,” Morris said. “They just take your talent. It’s like we’re not moving.”

Monday’s 109-97 loss to the Bulls offered the latest example of the Nuggets’ confounding third-quarter warts. In each of the last three games — a loss to Orlando, a rousing win in New York and Monday’s defeat in Chicago — the Nuggets have gotten punched to start the third quarter.

The recipe often includes bad turnovers, defensive lapses and a bizarre malaise in the opening minutes of the second half. Chicago opened the third quarter with a quick 7-0 blitz, and the Nuggets’ three-point halftime lead flipped to a four-point deficit.

From that moment forward, the Nuggets (11-12) were on their heels, barely able to create any separation. The cold streaks only add more pressure to Nikola Jokic, who despite passing Larry Bird in all-time triple-doubles with 17 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds, could’ve been better. Jokic only shot 6 of 17 from the field, including a handful of missed bunnies he wished he could’ve had back.

But the margin for error, when the Nuggets are already down two starters and five rotation players overall, is non-existent. The Bulls hung 63 points in the second half and rode a handful of momentum dunks to the win.

Pointedly (and sarcastically), Nuggets coach Michael Malone asked his team if they needed him to sing or dance to jolt them at halftime. As has always been the case, Malone said the problem begins with him.

“I’m serious when I say I gotta look at myself,” he said. “We usually go in and meet as a staff there in the locker room. Then we show a couple of clips of things that we have to be better at, things that we maybe have to adjust. And then maybe show a positive here or there. Maybe it’s taking too long. Maybe we gotta get our guys out there earlier. Maybe we gotta bring in Tony Robbins to talk to the team at halftime.”

Morris said he suggested layup lines to his teammates in order to get them moving again. He said for a veteran team, with plenty of big-game experience, the lack of maturity wasn’t acceptable. Film, ahead of Wednesday’s game in New Orleans, would reveal the same woeful mistakes, he said.

“We start those three games really good, so why we don’t talk about those three really good starts?” Jokic opined. “Of course we’re going to talk about the negative stuff. Something is wrong, something happens. Maybe they just go on a run. Maybe we’re just not prepared.”

If only the odd third-quarter starts was the only issue currently plaguing the Nuggets. Instead, Monday was yet another example of their biggest problem: surviving the non-Jokic minutes.

The only starter who had a negative plus/minus was Will Barton (-24) despite 19 points, five rebounds and three 3-pointers. Barton’s line was submarined as a direct result of him staggering with the second unit, alongside Facu Campazzo, Davon Reed, JaMychal Green and Zeke Nnaji. The reserves only accounted for 10 points in the loss.

“I could play Nikola 48,” Malone said. “That’s an option that’s certainly been discussed. I don’t think that’s good for his longevity. … Maybe we need to have two starters back in.”

The problem, as Denver’s head coach explained, is that would leave an already-depleted rotation to just eight players. And Monday was their first of three games in four nights.

“Every option is on the board,” he said.

The drastic swings throughout the first half of their seven-game road trip were enough to make on-lookers nauseous.

“You’ve seen peaks and valleys,” Malone joked. “We gotta be gentle, rolling hills in the heart of America somewhere.”

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By :