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Denver’s Michael Malone calls Game 2 blowout loss to Suns ’embarrassing’

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JUNE 09: Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns slam dunks the ball over Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets during the second half in Game Two of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Phoenix Suns Arena on June 09, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Following a blowout 123-98 loss to the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone had just one word to describe the game: embarrassing.

“There’s a reason their crowd is yelling ‘Suns in four,'” the deflated coach said postgame via Zoom.

The Nuggets started to fall apart in the third quarter of Game 2 as the Suns seized momentum to go on a 16-0 run that took the air out of Denver’s squad.

Malone got honest with reporters on the performance, saying he felt his team quit Wednesday and that it’ll be a short series if their play doesn’t turn around Friday for Game 3 in Denver.

“I saw one team that wanted to be here and play with a purpose and urgency, and one team that did not want to be here and played with no urgency,” Malone said. “That’s why we got our (expletive) kicked.”

Denver shot 40% from the field and went 14-of-43 from the three-point range. They also made just 12-of-20 free throws, compared to the Suns’ 15-of-17. Phoenix outscored Denver 73-56 in the second half.

“We had a lot of guys play really bad tonight and then we allowed the impact of not making shots to affect the other end. … This was just an embarrassing performance all the way around, from top to bottom,” he added.

Every Phoenix starter reached double-figures but Chris Paul was unable to be stopped, recording 17 points and 15 assists without a turnover.

Malone has a history with Paul, as he was an assistant coach in New Orleans at the same time Paul played for the team, so he knows how hard it can be to shut down one of the best in the game.

“Obviously, Chris Paul doesn’t see us. He doesn’t feel us and we’re not impacting what he’s trying to do in any way, shape or form,” Malone said.

“I think you could say that pretty much for the Phoenix Suns roster. They’ve had their way with us on both ends of the court.”

The head coach’s assessment was bleak, but a bright spot for the Nuggets was the return of Will Barton, who has been out since April 23 with a hamstring injury.

Barton was on restricted minutes due to it being his first game back and ended the night with 10 points, three assists and one rebound.

“In his first game, goes out there and gives you 10 and 3, gave us a bolt of energy in that first half. … I just told our players its embarrassing that a guy who hasn’t been able to play for seven weeks was out there leaving it all on the line and I don’t think anybody else did,” Malone said.

Barton told reporters that words were shared in the frustrated locked room after the loss, but wouldn’t get into what was said, instead focusing on the match ahead.

“Things were definitely said, some things that needed to be said, but all of that is irrelevant,” he said. “We’ve got to go on the court Game 3 and play like we know how we need to play to win.”


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