NUGGETS

MPJ ejected as Nuggets gag in embarrassing loss to tanking Spurs

Mar 10, 2023, 9:23 PM | Updated: 9:32 pm

Atrocious

Horrendous

Ugly

Pitiful

These are just a few of the appropriate words Denver Nuggets fans could use as they watched their first-place team gag away a game to one of the clubs in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes on Friday night.

The Nuggets took their worst road loss of the year 128-120, as they fell apart defensively to the now 17-win San Antonio Spurs. Nikola Jokic collected a triple-double in a loss for the first time this season. The MV3 went for 37 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the pathetic defeat. The Nuggets led by as many as 15, but so what? They put their effort in cruise control and fell asleep at the wheel. The Spurs hadn’t beaten a playoff team from the west since Oct. 30 to Minnesota.

It seemed to happen in a dream-like state as the Nuggets’ lead dwindled to a deficit. The unlikeliest of macho heroes attempted to come to the rescue. Michael Porter Jr. attempted to inspire the Nuggets with a ferocious dunk. He gave Zach Collins the evil eyeball and consequently picked up a technical foul. Collins stepped to MPJ, bumping him from behind. When MPJ turned around, Collins proceeded to head butt MPJ. As MPJ tried to push Collins away, his hand slid up Collins neck. It was a brief skirmish, but it was enough to get both players thrown out.

This was either a positive in terms of getting the team fired up or was a negative as the Nuggets lost a good player. It felt satisfying at the time, but based on the fact the Nuggets couldn’t make a shot to save their lives, it was ultimately a bad deal.

“No,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said in a postgame media scrum when asked if he was surprised when MPJ got ejected. “What is Michael supposed to do? I wasn’t surprised. It was the right thing to do to throw Collins out if you were gonna throw Michael out.”

Malone didn’t parse words about the game.

“It was an embarrassing loss.”

“We weren’t good enough, especially the second unit. We were outscored by their bench 58-25”

“I spent every timeout begging for defense.”

“We got our ass kicked.”

Tell us how you really feel.

The Nuggets have just been lousy for three games in a row now.

Malone said he didn’t recognize the team that lost at home Thursday 117-96 to the Bulls. In fact, it was hard to discern the effort level even in a win earlier in the week to Toronto.

With 15 games to go, there are going to be some serious reality checks for the Nuggets. Denver heads home for an afternoon contest with the Nets on Sunday and then hits the road for what could be an extremely humbling five-game east coast road trip.

The acquisitions of Thomas Bryant and Reggie Jackson have done absolutely nothing for the team. Sure, Jamal Murray set the club’s three-point make record as he went 2-for-8 from deep against the Spurs, but a bigger picture look shows that he is a sad 3-for-15 from behind the arc in his last two games.

Porter Jr. has elevated his performance to the level of where he is too valuable not to be available. However, the real story is what’s headed down the road. Get ready for the extreme scrutiny of Jokic’s MVP campaign as he and the team head into the heart of the East Coast Media bias in the tri-state area with games against the Knicks and Nets. Oh and Jokic’s two calling cards for his MVP campaign: the hadn’t lost in a triple-double and had only shot under 50% in one game this season, are marks that have been broken in consecutive games. Things are heating up and the Nuggets better get ready for the smoke.

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