Urgency, desperation and 17 video clips: How Michael Malone keeps motivating the Nuggets

  • ESPN.com NBA writer since 2010
  • Covered Cleveland Cavs for seven years
  • Author of two books

MIAMI — To say the Denver Nuggets’ coaching staff has the utmost respect for Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is an understatement.

He keeps the Nuggets up at night. They ponder what adjustments to the adjustments to the adjustments Spoelstra will make. They’ve approached this 2023 NBA Finals knowing the way the Heat might play in Game 1 could be vastly different from what they do by Game 4, and it leaves Denver on edge.

Spoelstra likes to say, sometimes by admonishing reporters who ask questions about it, that his team’s schemes aren’t as important as the effort the Heat give. This might indeed be true; however, the Nuggets (and most undoubtedly the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks) will tell you Miami’s schemes are pretty good, too.

With all of that context serving as the backdrop — not to mention Spoelstra’s lineup and game plan adjustments that fueled the Heat’s Game 2 upset in Denver — Nuggets coach Michael Malone and his staff delivered a brilliant counter in setting up the team for its 109-94 Game 3 victory Wednesday night.

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray made it happen, their matching 30-point triple-doubles serving as a historic marker on the game that got Denver home-court advantage back and a 2-1 series lead.

But Malone pitched a near perfect game himself.

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