Nuggets Look for Some Fine-Tuning as Preseason Winds Down

LOS ANGELES – Call this week Dress Rehearsal Week for the Nuggets.

Two preseason games remain for them before the regular season kicks off on Oct. 17. They begin on Tuesday at the L.A. Clippers – incidentally, the same teams that will meet in the regular season opener. Coach Michael Malone has a checklist he’d like to get completed by the time next week rolls around.

First? Get the starting five humming.

“What I am I looking to get out of these last two games,” said Malone, the last syllable trailing off. “The starters; we have to find a way to click. Our starting group is somewhat disjointed. Part of that is Gary (Harris) didn’t play the first two games, Jamal (Murray) missed the second game. The first game that they all played together was against Perth.

So, the last two games, give them the opportunity, some time to create that chemistry, that synergy on the court.”

He took a moment to praise the reserve unit.

“Our second group has been fantastic,” Malone said. “I love how hard they are playing, how well they are playing. But our starting group, there’s just something not there right now. And I hope in these last two games, we can find a way to get it – or get as close to it as possible going into opening night on the 17th.”

Second? Get regular season minutes for the rotation.

“One of these games we’re going to treat like a regular season game and try to get guys minutes,” Malone said. “So, opening night when guys are playing in the fourth quarter, it’s not their first time in a fourth quarter.”

And they’ll have intriguing competition to test themselves against.

The L.A. Clippers are completely reimagined. For the first time in 10 years they will open a season without either Chris Paul, Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan. In their place is a completely retooled starting lineup and playing style. This is no longer Lob City. But they are warming up to a new moniker: Clamp City. There are several standout defenders on the roster, and the Clippers plan to win games that way all season long.

The Bulls, meanwhile, are fast and athletic and will test the Nuggets in transition defense and in walling off the lane. Players like Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Jabari Parker can all get to the rim, and finish with authority when they get there.

The Nuggets meanwhile, continue to tinker with offensive concepts and a defense that has shown signs of improvement.

“I think we’re different from a lot of teams,” Malone said. “We have play calls and we have sets to get a certain player the ball where he’s most effective. A lot of the stuff we have in right now is what I would call our equal opportunity offense. Where, we’re playing the game, we’re moving the ball, we’re playing off of each other.

“And that’s really hard to guard because there’s not a certain action every time. It is: he may cut this way, he may cut that way; the ball may go here or it may go there. It’s us reading each other and playing with each other, and that’s when we’re at our best.”

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and chrisadempsey on Twitter.

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