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Michael Malone has a simple message for the Nuggets ahead of Game 3 against the T-Wolves

The Denver Nuggets, trailing 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals against the Minnesota Timberwolves, are facing their mortality head-on, but coach Michael Malone wants to keep things in perspective.

Speaking to the media ahead of a crucial third game, Malone said he emphasized the “reigning champions” identity with the team, encouraging them to remember who they are to ensure the team’s actions The team on and off the field matches this honorable distinction.

“We were disappointed in our response to adversity, not on the field but off the field. I have never seen this in my nine years and the first time in our last six years of participation in the playoffs. How things developed It’s hard, we kind of broke up and separated And as we all know, you can’t do that. need to get together.

Malone hasn’t been explicit about the off-court habits he observed, but guard Jamal Murray notably came under scrutiny for throwing a heat pack from the sideline toward an official during Game 2 .

The reality, however, for Malone and the Nuggets is that winning a trophy in the NBA is difficult. Since the 1999–2000 season, only four teams have won a Larry O’Brien Trophy more than once, with seven teams having won it once and only once during this period. Winning a title is hard, winning multiple times in a generation is even harder.

The Nuggets would prefer to be more like the Lakers, Spurs, Heat, and Warriors, but looking at recent history, several teams have struggled to get back to the top after a title win. Neither the Milwaukee Bucks nor the Toronto Raptors – the last two new franchises of the 21st century to win a trophy – have made it past the semifinals since winning their titles in 2021 and 2019, respectively.

On the one hand, Malone is right, the Nuggets are the reigning champions, and there is a certain notoriety and pride that goes with it. On the other hand, this title is fleeting, and the Nuggets see it slipping further and further from their grasp.

Malone was wise to point out that in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, the Nuggets came back from two 3-1 deficits, so a 2-0 deficit could put them down, but not necessarily just yet.

Game 3 on Friday night will help show how well Malone has delivered that message to his team.