For the second game in a row, the Nuggets lost hands down to the Suns in a game that was not close.
But this time, Denver coach Michael Malone was particularly unhappy with his team’s effort.
After the Suns’ 123-98 win, Malone tore his team apart and said they gave up in the loss that brought them 0-2 in their streak to Phoenix.
“I felt we had quit tonight, which you never want to see,” Malone said, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “So I guess for Game 3 I’m just going to try and find some guys who are at least going to go in there and leave it all on the line. I might be struggling to find five guys that fill that out, but these two games, these second halves were really disappointing, to put it mildly. “
MORE: Chris Paul’s Game 2 Masterpiece Summarized in Four Stats
However, not all Nuggets players agreed with Malone’s idea that the team “quit”. One of those players was Nikola Jokic. The NBA MVP was not happy with the way the team played, but he appeared to take issue with Malone’s claim.
“I don’t think the guys are giving up,” Jokic said. “When you lose a lot, you can always put your head down.… But I’m not sure we stopped. I didn’t stop.”
Jokic, as usual, had the best night of all the nuggets. He registered 24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. That said, he still finished with a minus-14 rating as Denver struggled defensively.
In general, Denver had a bad night. He shot just 40% from the field, was passed 52-46, lost the turnover battle 11-7 and committed 21 fouls to Phoenix’s 18.
In Malone’s words, it looked like the Nuggets “didn’t want to be” part of the game 2.
“I saw a team that wanted to be here, that played with purpose and urgency, and a team that didn’t want to be here and played without urgency,” said Malone. “And that’s why we got our ass kicked.… We had a lot of guys playing really badly tonight. And then we let the impact of not making the shot affect the other end, and it was really – it was just an embarrassing performance all around, up and down. “
Now the Nuggets will be looking to bounce back in Game 3. But like Malone said, there’s no guarantee that will happen.
“It was an embarrassing performance on my part throughout the last player,” said Malone. “We walk out of here with our heads down, and rightly so. And there’s a reason their crowd is screaming ‘Suns in 4!’ and they’re calling for a sweep. Because if we play like that in Denver, it’s going to be a very quick series. “