Spiraling Nuggets ‘together’ despite sideline spat

    Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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DENVER — Michael Malone said the Denver Nuggets left their bickering and at times uncontrollable frustration behind in San Francisco as they hope to turn their first-round series around against the Golden State Warriors.

The Nuggets insist they are unified after teammates Will Barton and DeMarcus Cousins got into a verbal spat on the sideline during a second-half meltdown against the Warriors in Game 2.

Point guard Monte Morris said after that 126-106 loss on Monday that Nuggets players spoke up in the locker room.

“That was out of the system before we got on the plane,” Malone said on Wednesday after Nuggets practice. “We handled that internally and we move forward.”

“We are together,” added Malone, whose team will try to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole against the Warriors in Thursday’s Game 3 at Ball Arena. “We are fine. We moved past that. We go into the game as one unit. There is no hangover from what happened during that game.”

Malone has said that the Nuggets have no chance of beating the Warriors if they are fighting and beating themselves. Through the first two games, Denver has had no answer for Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Poole is averaging 29.5 points in the starting lineup, and Curry has averaged 25 points off the bench as he continues to make his way back from injury. Thompson has averaged 20 points per game in the series and Green has successfully slowed down reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.

Jokic is averaging 25.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5 assists. But Jokic has been frustrated with the officiating and was ejected in the fourth quarter of Game 2 after earning his second technical foul for arguing with a referee over what he thought was a foul that wasn’t called.

Jokic also credited Green’s defense against him after Game 1. In Game 2, Green held Jokic to eight points and 2-of-12 shooting when he was the final defender on the Nuggets big man.

“Draymond has really been hurting us,” point guard Austin Rivers said. “People aren’t really noticing that. Draymond has really hurt us. He’s just controlling tempo, he’s getting them all these shots, he’s beating up Jok.”

Green has held Jokic to a total of 16 points and 6-for-25 shooting in the first two games when he was the final defender against the reigning MVP, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

“Draymond Green is literally not guarding anybody,” Malone said of how Golden State is utilizing the defensive stopper. “He is a free safety out there. So we have to find a way to be effective and make them pay for doing that. And until we do that, it is going to be really hard for Nikola to get off when he’s got three guys around him and they’re saying, ‘We are going to make one of you other guys beat us.'”

Malone wants to see his team play more aggressive. With Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. still out, Denver needs Aaron Gordon, who has averaged 7.5 points and 5.0 rebounds, to have a bigger impact.

“We talked with Aaron today,” Malone said. “[About] different ways we can counter how they are guarding him and how he can not only help himself, if they are not going to guard, he can also help his teammates a lot as well.

“I think it starts with an aggression level. Be aggressive. We got guys catching the ball in the paint not even looking at the rim, kicking it out to the perimeter. Be aggressive, make a play, get to the basket, get to the foul line. When you have two talented teams, the most aggressive team is going to win … until that changes, we have no chance in hell of winning a game in this series.”

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