PORTLAND — Good news, Nuggets fans!
“The sun comes up,” Michael Malone confirmed Saturday.
It was the day after the longest game in team history, a quadruple-overtime, past-bedtime Game 3, finally won 140-137 by the Trail Blazers. Was it the Game of the Century? Worse have made the list.
And the sun's appearance is not always a given here in the Pacific Northwest. On an off day in the City of Roses, Malone was Mr. Sunshine.
“There’s only eight teams still playing in the NBA and we’re one of them,” he said. “We have a great opportunity (in Game 4 on Sunday) to take control of the series.”
1. Nikola "Iron Man" Jokic, a 250-pound center who played 65 minutes, the most in a playoff game since 1953, must be telling the truth.
“Surprisingly enough he says he feels great,” Malone reported Saturday.
2. The Nuggets must find their Rodney Hood.
“To me, the MVP of that game was Rodney Hood,” Malone said.
The Blazers got a tad lucky with Hood’s timely arrival. Portland coach Terry Stotts said Hood was on the court to deliver the 3-point game-winner only because starter Mo Harkless had a case of the cramps.
But as the old basketball saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than down 2-1.
With starters Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris combining for 170 minutes — the equivalent of 3.5 entire games completed in regulation, in the longest NBA playoff game in 66 years — Sunday is about the other guys.
Game 4 is on Malik Beasley, Monte Morris or Will Barton, again. One must be the Nuggets' hero.
As the starters ran on fumes, it was no coincidence the best scorers in overtime(s) were reserves. Thanks to fresh legs, Hood totaled 19 points, Barton 22. No matter their resolve, the stars of the series are bound to be worn down in Game 4.
"We're going to need everybody," Malone said.
Will the next Torrey Craig please stand up?
"I do trust our bench and if I have to go to them, I will," Malone said.
For once, these young Nuggets have been in this playoff situation before. They trailed the Spurs 2-1 before rumbling into San Antonio and winning Game 4 on the road. Hmmm.
Malone’s message the day after: R-E-L-A-X. An optional team breakfast didn’t begin until 10 a.m. A loose workout at Moda Center included only players who did not play Friday, and even the bench warmers took it easy by cruising back to the hotel on Lime e-scooters.
Jokic tripled his career average, 28 minutes per game, in a single night. He played a consecutive 48 minutes, 58 seconds, from halftime on.
"That's ridiculous," Malone said.
“They were talking about, ‘I’m not in good shape,’” Jokic fired back at critics. “I’m in really good shape. I don't know what they are talking about.”
How's this for irony: almost 40 years ago, Blazers coach Terry Stotts played for former Denver Nuggets coach George Karl with the Montana Golden Nuggets of the CBA. As Friday creeped into Saturday at Moda Center, it felt like Game 3 had begun about when the Golden Nuggets folded.
“We were pushed to our limits,” Malone said. “But often times the human body is capable of great things when they’re pushed to their limits.”
“I had no idea it was going to go into four overtimes,” he said. “I apologized to (Jokic).”
Save the sorrys for a rainy day.
For the Nuggets to retake control, Game 4 is about the other guys: Beasley, Morris, Barton, somebody not named Joker or Jamal.
"Mentally, just disappointed we lost," Barton said. "Physically, I'm fine."
Save the series.