For the second consecutive game, the Nuggets lost handily to the Suns in a game that wasn’t close.
But this time, Denver coach Michael Malone was particularly displeased with his team’s effort.
After the 123-98 Suns victory, Malone ripped into his team and said that they quit during the loss that dropped them to 0-2 in their series against Phoenix.
“I felt we quit tonight, which is something you never want to see,” Malone said, per ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “So I guess for Game 3, I’m just going to try to find guys that will at least go out there and leave it all on the line. I may have a hard time coming up with five guys that fill that, but these two games, these second halves have really been disappointing, and that’s an understatement.”
However, not all of the Nuggets players agreed with Malone’s notion that the team “quit.” One of those players was Nikola Jokic. The NBA MVP wasn’t pleased with how the team played, but he seemed to take objection to Malone’s assertion.
“I don’t think so that guys quit,” Jokic said. “When you’re losing a lot, you can always kind of put your head down. … But I’m not sure that we quit. I didn’t quit.”
Jokic, per usual, had the best night of any Nugget. He posted 24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. That said, he still finished with a minus-14 rating as Denver struggled on the defensive end.
In general, Denver had a bad night. It shot just 40 percent from the field, was outrebounded 52-46, lost the turnover battle 11-7 and committed 21 fouls compared to Phoenix’s 18.
In Malone’s words, it looked like the Nuggets “did not want to be” a part of Game 2.
“I saw one team that wanted to be here, that played with a purpose and urgency, and one team that did not want to be here and played with no urgency,” Malone said. “And that’s why we got our ass kicked. … We had a lot of guys play really bad tonight. And then we allowed the impact of not making the shot to affect the other end, and it was really — this was just an embarrassing performance all the way around, top to bottom.”
Now, the Nuggets will look to bounce back in Game 3. But as Malone said, there’s no guarantee that will happen.
“This was an embarrassing performance from myself all the way through the last player,” Malone said. “We’re walking out of here with our heads held down, rightfully so. And there’s a reason that their crowd is yelling ‘Suns in 4!’ and they’re calling for a sweep. Because if we play like this back in Denver, this is going to be a really quick series.”