Malone Pleased with Nuggets Progress After 20 Games

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

Never one to pass on a good stat, Nuggets coach Michael Malone had one at the ready on Monday afternoon when he met the media.

“Right now,” he said, “we’re the only team in the Western Conference ranking top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.”

According to NBA.com, the Nuggets are eighth in offensive rating (110.6) and fourth in defensive rating (104.0). The net rating of 6.6 is third in the NBA. All are consistently reliable indicators of just how well a team is – or isn’t – playing.

He’d already delivered the good news to his team. It was part of Malone’s 20-game evaluation of his squad, which sees the Nuggets at 13-7 and, going into Monday night’s games, in third place in the Western Conference.

“The message is to understand why we are winning,” Malone said. “And even when the offense struggles, the defense can carry the day and has done that and needs to continue to do that moving forward into the next 20 games.”

The last time the Nuggets finished the season in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating --- they went to the Western Conference Finals in 2009. We won’t get too far ahead of ourselves, just barely getting to a quarter of the way through the current season. But it has been a very positive start for the Nuggets, especially, Malone said, because the offense has yet to truly get going.

“The fact that we’re eighth in offensive efficiency, to me, is kind of funny,” Malone said. “Because we are not shooting it as well as we are capable of.”

At issue is the 3-point line, where the Nuggets are 20th in made threes per game (10.3) and 23rd in 3-point percentage (34.0). Both are under where the Nuggets were last season in 3-point makes (11.5) and percentage (37.1). So, there is room for improvement.

But overall, Malone said the arrow on the Nuggets’ offense is pointed up.

“I’d say it’s definitely trending up,” Malone said. “We’re getting great looks.”

He continued.

“For me, the key is making sure we generate the right types of shots,” Malone said. “And getting our players the ball where they are most effective. And we have done that. So, I think the offense is definitely trending in the right direction. To be eighth after 20 games is really good considering the fact that some guys still haven’t found that consistent rhythm from three.”

Gary Harris Update: Nuggets starting shooting guard Gary Harris did not practice on Monday as he continues to undergo treatment for left ankle soreness. Nuggets coach Michael Malone said it was his call to hold Harris out of the Oklahoma City game on Saturday.

“My thought was, and I told him this when we got to the arena, I said ‘I want to shut you down tonight. I know you want to try to go out there and see how you feel.’ But second night of a back-to-back, third game in four nights; was not able to finish the game against Orlando, it’s a long season. My concern was if he plays are we now risking injury and a further absence?”

Malone said Harris wanted to play. As for Harris’s availability for Tuesday’s game against the Lakers, Malone said, “hopefully. He got treatment today and we’ll see how he feels in the morning.”

Harris is officially listed as questionable for the contest.

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