NUGGETS

In critical Game 5, the Nuggets answer the bell and deliver a message

May 10, 2023, 6:23 AM

“It’s all there, black and white, clear as crystal! You stole fizzy lifting drinks! You bumped into the ceiling that now has to be washed and sterilized, so you get nothing! You Lose! Good day, Sir!”

This is the rant Willy Wonka gives to Charlie to test his mettle. Charlie would pass and win the Chocolate Factory. The Nuggets got their own magic bar in Game 5 of their semifinal conference series with the Suns, winning 118-102 to take a 3-2 lead. With the resounding victory, the Nuggets sent the Suns an emphatic…

Good day, Sir!

It started pregame, as Nikola Jokic passed by Suns owner Matt Ishbia. The greatest benchwarmer in Michigan State history decided he wasn’t a big enough enemy by flopping and flailing in Game 4 in Phoenix. He doubled down on his blistered Rocky Mountain reputation by bringing Midnight Mel Tucker as his guest. How the two of them thought they would be received by the Nuggets crowd is anybody’s guess. However, the best player in the league, Nikola Jokic, simply ignored the two scoundrels on first pass.

As the knuckleheads chopped it up sitting in the front-row seats more than an hour before tip-off, Jokic saw a brilliant opportunity. Sure, he has passed by them the first time like they were the nerds at the middle-school dance scared to hold a girl’s hand. That diss was solid. But on his return trip after warmups, Jokic casually passed a basketball to Ishbia, quickly bro hugged him, and walked off without the ball. Unlike Game 4, Ishbia quickly got rid of the ball, knowing Jokic officially got the last laugh.

Good day, Sir!

When the Suns called an impromptu huddle during a free-throw attempt, Bruce Brown, who had a career-high 25 points off the bench, rushed over to their huddle as he had just as much of a right to be anywhere on the court as the Suns player. This annoyed his former teammate, Kevin Durant. Seizing a genuine opportunity to find out their next play, Jokic rushed over, as well.

“To see what play they were going to run,” said Jokic on why he photobombed the huddle. “Knowing that would help a lot.”

His comical action wasn’t taken with it’s intended jocularity, as Durant swatted him away. Jokic pulled off a perfect Ishbia, flailing about like an inflatable at a car wash, drawing a technical on KD. Brown received a T too, which confused him. After the game, he stated that he had as much right to be on the court as the Suns players. He was completely correct. But acting like Tanner from “The Bad News Bears” doesn’t curry favor.

The whole sequence was a challenge to the Suns trying to get away with crap. Nope. Not tonight.

Good day, Sir!

Landry Shamet is a pest who got lucky draining 5-of-8 three-pointers in Game 4. He is a flea on Jamal Murray’s giant shoulders. Shamet should be remembered as the player whose soul was snatched whence being posterized on Christmas night by Aaron Gordon, not as some sort of poetic hero from the land of corner three. Murray put him in his proper place, drawing a foul with his bucket early in the third. After blowing by Shamet, Murray barked at him with a sneer and a growl. Sure, Murray drew a T from a cotton-soft ref, but so what? Shamet needed to be put down like Old Yeller.

Good day, Sir!

Michael Porter Jr. was being pilloried by the media, both home and away, for not living up to his potential in the playoffs. His response? Draining 4-of-5 three -pointers in the first 12 minutes. It was the most-resounding Porter Quarter of the year, happening when it mattered the most.

Good day, Sir!

Finally, the biggest message came from Nuggets coach Michael Malone. His voice was barely audible postgame. Either he was screamed out or stressed out. What he most decidedly believed in turned out to be his own convictions.

93% of teams in the NBA who lead a series 2-0 go on to win. Dropping Games 3 and 4 in Phoenix was quickly putting Malone into the dangerous 7% territory. Getting the win on Tuesday night against the Suns was absolutely critical to justify future employment. The reasonable question is if Malone couldn’t find success with this lineup starting with a 2-0 series lead, how in the world would he ever win in the future?

Was Malone simply too bullheaded to make significant adjustments? Despite a deep and talented bench, Malone had only been going with the Crayola Box Crew (Bruce Brown, Jeff Green and Christian Braun) the entire playoffs. They had been skunked 40-11 in Game 4. There’s zero doubt that this imbalance in the force tilted the victory towards Phoenix. Certainly Malone would make some adjustments. Right?

Good day, Sir!

He didn’t care if the general manager got him a veteran point guard who has destroyed the Suns in the past. Reggie Jackson shall remain on the bench.

Good day, Sir!

Peyton Watson, you seem like a nice young man. That being said, there was zero chance Malone was throwing two rookies out on the court.

Good Day, Sir!

Zeke Nnaji and Vlatko Cancar? He didn’t really care if they are younger and better shooters than Uncle Jeff Green, whose age is highlighted by a growing bald spot. Sit on the bench, while the coach trots out his favorite senior basketball citizen.

Good day, Sir!

Malone had everything riding in this game and he came out of it smelling like a rose. He was right and everybody else who demanded change was wrong. It wouldn’t be surprising that whispers in dark corners of Ball Arena may have been asking if Malone was just too stubborn. Suns coach Monty Williams had made significant changes after dropping two in row. Would Malone be so bold to simply do what he believed in?

Good day, Sir!

If there is ever a game for Malone to be remembered for, it’s one when everything was on the line. His instincts and basketball judgment were right as rain.

Tuesday night proved the Nuggets are not only a better team on the court, but superior in the mental department as well. Still, it would be a surprise if they close things out Thursday night in Phoenix. It just seems impossible for the road team to win in this series. But, why would a team that dominated in the regular season at home and currently sits 6-0 in the playoffs be afraid of a Game 7? The answer is…

Good day, Sir!

***

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In critical Game 5, the Nuggets answer the bell and deliver a message