Denver Nuggets’ Monte Morris: Bench will get back to its best in Game 7

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

It is less than 24 hours from the Nuggets’ biggest game of the season, but one couldn’t tell from the vibe at team practice on Saturday afternoon.

The Western Conference semifinals hasn’t been short of drama as there’s plenty of tense moments that have all culminated in Sunday’s Game 7 finale. But at Pepsi Center’s practice courts, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly loose. Players were joking around while the coaches and front office executives were all smiles. One player who appeared particularly confident was Monte Morris. He took on Will Barton, Torrey Craig and Brandon Goodwin in a three-point contest at the end of practice.

Although Morris didn’t win, he held his own, appearing confident with each swish. That could bode well for Sunday. If there’s been one area that recently been under the microscope for Denver, it’s been the performance of the team’s second unit.

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One of the best benches in the regular season, the Nuggets’ reserves have been edged by the Trail Blazers’ second unit thanks to a breakout series by Rodney Hood. Despite some of the recent struggles by the Nuggets’ bench, Morris believes the unit will get back on track on Sunday.

“We should have a better performance in Game 7 and our bench is better than theirs,” Morris told Nuggets.com after practice. “I’m not being biased, you look at the numbers and all year, and I just feel our bench has been better than theirs.”

Denver’s reserves are currently shooting 36.6 percent in the semifinals as opposed to converting at 44.7 percent in the first round. In the regular season, the bench was a significant reason why the team was able to secure the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference as head coach Michael Malone was able to rely on his depth throughout the season.

“We need our bench. They helped us get to where we are right now,” Malone said after practice. “Whether its Monte, Malik, Will, Mason, any of those guys. [It’s] just going out there and playing free, playing with confidence. Even if things aren’t going well on offense, you can still guard…When in doubt, just be aggressive.”

Morris agreed with his coach’s thoughts.

“I think we’re thinking too much, trying to play perfect,” Morris told Nuggets.com. “Coach puts out there for a reason and we just have to go out there and do what we’ve been doing all season. We just have to play our brand of basketball.”

Morris was a big part of the Nuggets’ success during the regular season, but he’s been one of the several players who hasn’t been able to get into a rhythm in the semifinals. After shooting 49.3 percent for the season, the backup point guard is converting at just 22 percent in the second round. On Saturday, however, Morris appeared assured in his ability heading into Game 7.

“At the end of the day, it’s still basketball. I can’t get too high or too low in this game,” Morris said. “It’s a game of runs and opportunities.

“Whenever my number is called, I just have to come here and be ready to go. Don’t leave tomorrow with any regrets. If I go out there and go 0-for-10 or go 10-for-10, I got to go out there and play my game and leave it all out there.”

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