Nuggets’ sloppiness, 3-point defense exposed in ugly loss to Heat

Eventually, the Nuggets’ injuries were going to haunt them. On Saturday, when the games finally started to count, they did.

Without starters Jamal Murray (hamstring), Gary Harris (hip) and Will Barton (knee), the Nuggets were in short supply of perimeter players and dropped the opening game of their restart 125-105 to the Miami Heat. At 43-23, the Nuggets fell to 1.5 games back of the No. 2 seeded Clippers.

Before the break, Miami was the top 3-point shooting team in the NBA, connecting at a clip of over 38% from outside. On Saturday, they lit the nets with a scorching second half and finished 13-of-29 from outside. Forced to rely on facilitators like Monte Morris, P.J. Dozier and others who were out of position, the Nuggets did themselves no favors in turning the ball over 19 times.

Nikola Jokic paced the Nuggets with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a team-high 34 minutes. His elite play and vision could only lift his teammates so much.

Michael Porter Jr., Torrey Craig and Morris filled in for the team’s typical starters. Porter and Morris underwhelmed, while Craig’s energy couldn’t do enough to offset their second-half sloppiness.

They also couldn’t extract enough excitement from Bol Bol’s NBA debut to make any difference. Bol finished with five points and five rebounds in his first game.

Denver’s two biggest keys were exposed in the third quarter when the Heat caught fire from 3-point range and the Nuggets’ miscues started to compound. Heat sniper Duncan Robinson flipped the momentum of the game with his 3-point shooting, and Miami steamrolled to 38 points in the quarter. At the same time, the Nuggets turned the ball over eight times to fuel their run. The Nuggets’ communication and on-ball defense were both less than ideal as Miami staked a 94-79 lead going into the fourth.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone set the tenor for the game when he began his pregame press conference while wearing a “Justice for Elijah McClain” shirt. The 23-year-old from Aurora died last year after an encounter with the police.

Less than two hours later, the entire Nuggets roster, including coaches, knelt for the national anthem alongside the majority of the Heat roster. Malone made clear that the decision was personal for each player and that the organization supported their decisions, regardless of whether they stood or not.

He also made a significant distinction in explaining why kneeling, in his perspective, was actually “super patriotic.”

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Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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