Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone blasted his team for their Game 1 performance against the Phoenix Suns as he said they had "a soft mentality" in the second half. The Nuggets, who led 58-57 at halftime, ended up losing 122-105 to the hosts Suns.
"This game to me was eerily similar to Game 1 against Portland," Malone said after the loss to the Suns, per ESPN. "I think we had way too many breakdowns tonight from a coverage standpoint. I think seven of their 13 3s tonight were from the corners and a lot of that was missed assignments, not communicating.
We gave up eight and-1s tonight, I think [we] had a soft mentality. You can't give up eight and-1s in a playoff game. If you're going to foul somebody, foul them, and not let them get the and-1." Nuggets swingman Aaron Gordon, who had 18 points, agreed with his coach.
"Soft, that's a good way to put it," Nuggets forward Gordon said. "Scared, that's another way to play it. You could choose between them two words, either soft or scared, that's what it felt like we were playing like.
And then we was just breaking down. We were breaking down defensively, offensively, we weren't getting into what we needed to get into. We were letting them dictate our offense a little too much. Really just a lot of breakdowns."
Nikola Jokic disagreed with coach Malone
"I don't think so [that] we played soft," Jokic said. "We have to do a better job, of course, handling the runs. I think in one moment they were on a 16-0 run. ...
When things aren't going our way, we just need to be more decisive, I think. We need to know what we are doing as a group." The Nuggets also dropped Game 1 to the Nuggets but ended up winning the series 4-2. "When we beat Portland in four games, we were the aggressor," Malone said.
"We were the more physical team, and that has to be the case. We're undermanned. There's a reason no one's giving us a chance to win this series. We have to bring our best version of ourselves -- tonight we didn't get that from a lot and we'll need it come Wednesday night."
Malone revealed he limited Michael Porter Jr.' s minutes in the second half because he was hampered by a back issue. "I'm always concerned when I see a guy obviously having a wrap on his back," Malone said.
"I didn't think in that second half Michael was moving the way that I'm used to seeing him move. But I just spoke to him, I think he just tweaked it a little bit. He'll get some treatment tonight, all day [Tuesday], and I fully expect Michael to be ready to go come Wednesday."