Jokic and Malone ejected but Nuggets stop slide against Pistons

Nov 20, 2023, 8:24 PM | Updated: 8:32 pm

Ever wonder what it would be like to watch a Denver Nuggets game on TV with Michael Malone or Nikola Jokic?

The two found company in each other in the bowels of Little Caesars Arena on Monday as the coach and star of the team were ejected early in Detroit. In an ongoing battle of frustration, Malone and Jokic took a stance in the first half against the Pistons. Appearing to get the same bad whistle the team got the night before in Cleveland, Malone got tossed early for a tough call on Nuggets rookie Julian Strawther. A little later Jokic picked up a second technical foul for talking to the refs after a play where he was clearly fouled twice.

So there the two were, hanging out next to laundry instead of hardwood.

“Obviously, I got thrown out, and so did Nikola,” Malone remarked after the game. “I think he was concerned about my well being so he wanted to come back and check on me.”

It was Malone’s first trip to Detroit since his father, a championship-winning assistant in the Motor City passed away. While those two were stuck backstage, the rest of the Nuggets were going full gas for the second straight night on their Great Lakes back-to-back. One of their issues on Sunday was getting a friendly whistle as Jokic got a technical and found himself in foul trouble a night before. Denver entered Monday tied for the fewest free throw attempts per game in the NBA thus far and given their star player is a post-playing big who always touches paint, it seems improbable the Nuggets are getting a fair whistle.

“Nikola and I are like kindred spirits,” Malone said about watching the game on TV with his two-time MVP. “When you’re watching on TV, you see everything, it’s hard to watch. When you make a good play, we’re pumping our fists, we’re excited, we’re hugging. And when you don’t make a good play, we’re cursing in Serbian.”

There were 23 lead changes and 13 ties in the back-and-forth game, as Denver out-played Detroit in the second half without the Joker to flex their heart en route to the fourth-quarter-comeback 107-103 win.

“I move around. I can’t just sit there,” Malone recounted how he took the game in. “You know, I was in the backroom, the locker room, and if they went on a run, I’d go to a different room to see if I could switch the mojo up a little bit. But yeah, at the end me, Nikola, Vlatko (Cancer,) we were all in the locker room.”

Already without Jamal Murray, the Nuggets were able to stop their two-game slide and avoid a fourth-straight road loss against the now 2-12 Pistons. Former Pistons guards Reggie Jackson and  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the way. The point had 21 points, dished two of his six assists in a key spot late and two-guard added 20 points and four stocks. A group of Christian Braun, Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon also stepped up big time.

“When you have no Murray and no Nikola, you need guys to step up and not be afraid of the moment,” Malone said. “It’s a young team over there but we’ve got young guys playing too, we can be over .500 on this road trip still. Anytime you can win one after losing two it’s good. We’re hoping we can build on this.”

The Pistons broadcasters were even calling the game a referee show. Malone would only say it is what is after the game, proving his point during it. He gave acting head coach David Adelman a lot of praise for leading the Nuggets to another victory.

“The entire coaching staff deserves a ton of credit. And then the players deserve so much too,” Malone said postgame. “I thought our defense really stepped up when needed to, Reggie and KCP were huge down the stretch, Christian off the bench, everybody stepped up and made plays to help us get this win. And you knew something had to give they’d lost 11 in a row, we’d lost two in a row and I’m proud of our guys for finding a way to fight through considering everything going on within this game.”

Neither Malone nor Jokic will hope to be in the situation they were in on Monday again—but for one night only the coach and star were just like us—resigned to cheering and swearing.


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