Nuggets’ Michael Malone: We Have Best Starting Lineup in NBA

It came after a loss, but coach Michael Malone will tell you that only proves his point.Michael Malone talks with Jamal Murray on the sideline

The defending champion Denver Nuggets, Malone said, just haven’t been the same without their full lineup. It is, after all, the best starting lineup in the NBA. Just ask Malone.

He was speaking to reporters following a home loss to the Sacramento Kings, the Nuggets’ third straight defeat. They enter the All-Star break at 36-19 and in fourth place in the Western Conference, three games behind the West-leading Minnesota Timberwolves.

Against the Kings, the Nuggets were without the starting backcourt of Jamal Murray, a borderline All-Star, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a veteran who does all the little things that lead to winning.

“We’re not healthy,” Malone said. “We have the best five-man starting unit in the league. The last three games we haven’t had those five guys together. I think it’s more of that.”

With a lineup that also features center and NBA MVP candidate Nikola Jokic and forwards Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr., Malone has a pretty strong case. They all have a championship ring to back up Malone’s take, too.

But Malone understands that things are different after you win a title.

“We have a bullseye on our back now,” he said. “For 82 games, we’re going to get everybody’s best, from a team in Sacramento or from teams that may be down in the standings. There are no easy nights for us.”

  • Somehow, the reigning champs have just one All-Star in Jokic. Many will tell you Murray should be there, too. But he said it doesn’t bother him. “I’m an All-Star when you need the All-Star to show up — in the playoffs,” he said, as relayed by our Ashish Mathur right here.
  • Murray makes a valid point. He averaged 21.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 10.0 assists in the Finals last season. “But (not being selected an All-Star) doesn’t hurt me like that, psychologically,” he said. “I haven’t made it for so long, and I’m a champion. And I’m on the best team in the world playing with the best player in the world.”

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