DENVER—Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone blasted his team’s attitude after their 111-108 loss to the Miami Heat in game two of the NBA Finals on Sunday.
Malone was furious with his team after their first loss on home court during the post-season saying he was “perplexed” by their approach.
“Let’s talk about effort. This is NBA Finals, we are talking about effort; that’s a huge concern of mine,” said Malone, who was yelling at his team in the first time-out of the game, after a slow start.
Denver won the opening game but now head to Miami with the series tied at 1-1 and Malone said they were fortunate to be on level terms.
“You guys probably thought I was just making up some storyline after game one when I said we didn’t play well. We didn’t play well,” he said.
“We had guys out there that were just whether feeling sorry for themselves for not making shots or thinking they can just turn it on or off, this is not the preseason, this is not the regular season. This is the NBA Finals. That to me is really, really perplexing, disappointing,” he said.
Malone said he had demanded answers in the locker-room from his team about their performance.
“I asked the team, I asked them, you guys tell me why they lost, and they knew the answer. Miami came in here and outworked us, and we were by far our least disciplined game (of the playoffs).
“So many breakdowns. They exploited every one of our breakdowns and scored. If we’re going to try to go down there and regain control of this series and get home-court advantage back, we’re going to have to outwork Miami, which we didn’t do tonight, and our discipline is going to have to be off the charts,” he said.
Miami’s shooting was far more productive than in the opening game but Malone said he had warned his team that they wouldn’t get away with allowing open shots another time.
“As I mentioned after game one, the fact that they got 16 wide-open threes was concerning. They didn’t make them. So, we got lucky in game one. Tonight, they made them,” he said.
“So, it was definitely a breakdown in communication. It was definitely a breakdown in our game plan, and like I said, we just were not nearly as disciplined as you need to be in the NBA Finals.”
Miami out-scored the Nuggets 36-25 in the final period and Malone was furious with his team’s level in the fourth quarter.
“To me the wheels really fell off to start that fourth quarter. They were getting whatever they wanted, threes, layups, and that allowed them once again to sit back in their zone offense, slow the game down, and we had a hard time getting stops, and then we had a hard time getting made baskets on the other end,” he said.
“Our defense has to be a hell of a lot better. That’s two fourth quarters, game one and game two, where our fourth-quarter defense has been nonexistent”.
Game three of the best-of-seven series is in Miami on Wednesday.