Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone blasted his team after a Game 4 115-95 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers as he thought that some of his starters were scared and played soft. "Our starters were awful," Malone said, per ESPN.
"I thought we had some guys that were tentative, that looked a little scared, who played soft ... we're going to have to be a lot better going home." The series is now tied at 2-2. "The urgency has to be there.
Maybe this will be a wake-up call for our starting group just to play harder," Malone said. "Good things happen when we play hard, and we didn't play anywhere close to hard enough tonight." The Trail Blazers led by 10 at halftime and then won the third quarter by 17 points.
"Their starters beat us by a lot, and we didn't respond well," Nuggets center Nikola Jokic said. "We need to be much better."
The Nuggets didn't take the advantage of Damian Lillard struggling
"If you would've told me going in that Damian Lillard was going to be 1-10 from the field and we're going to get blown out, I probably would've had a hard time believing that," Malone said.
Lillard finished the game with only 10 points but also had 10 assists. "When the game is going like that, I just try to manage the game and make sure it goes right," Lillard said. "Obviously, I'm going to still try to find my spots and not get too passive, and I didn't shoot the ball well; but once I saw guys had it going and we had a good flow to the game and we were defending, I knew I wasn't going to have to force my way into it.
"If it came down to it, I knew I'd put my head down a little bit more and start to search a little more. But when guys step up and are feeling good and making shots, and we're winning the game with what we're doing, my job is to understand that and manage it and ride that out."
Lillard also had eight rebounds. "I didn't have to come out and try to score 50 points or just dominate the game and have a hero performance or nothing like that," Lillard said. "It was just like, our team needed to have a really good game.
We defended on a string, our communication was on point, our execution of the scouting report was on point, and on the offensive end, the ball was just hopping around."