Denver Nuggets' Michael Malone announced as NBA 2019 Coach of the Year award finalist
The Nuggets improved their win total by eight games and unexpectedly captured the No.2 seed in the Western Conference, so it’s no surprise head coach Michael Malone is a finalist for the NBA’s 2019 Coach of the Year award.
Malone, 47, has been nominated for the postseason award along with the Milwaukee Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers.
Malone was instrumental towards getting the Nuggets to quickly move on from their Game 82 heartbreak in the 2017-18 season, using it as the catalyst for this season’s impressive results. Denver won 54 games in the 2018-19 campaign, with the win total tying the second-most victories in the franchise’s NBA history.
The Nuggets’ biggest improvement was on defense, where the team went from 22nd in defensive rating (109.0) in the 2017-18 season to 10th (108.0) this year. Denver impressively went from being dead last in defending the three (37.8 percent) to fifth this campaign (33.1). The Nuggets also improved on the glass as they were fourth this season at 47.7 boards per game as opposed to being seventh last year at 43.3.
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"He was just as upset about not making the playoffs as us," Jamal Murray said on Monday in discussing Malone's coaching this year. "He knew how good we can be. How good we are. In training camp, he got in our minds we have to play defense, that we can rely on it to win games. We did that all year.
He added, "When our offense was struggling, especially all of those fourth quarter games we won, it was because our defense. That’s what he’s known for, taking teams and putting that in your mind and your game. He’s done a great job of allowing us to play and giving us freedom to play, but also letting us know that we have to play defense or we wont have that freedom."
The winner of the award will be announced on June 24 at 7 p.m. MT (WATCH: TNT) in Los Angeles.