- Baxter Holmes (@Baxter) is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print, focusing on the NBA. He has covered the Lakers, the Celtics and previously worked for The Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times.
LOS ANGELES — After suffering their worst loss of the season Friday, a brutal 132-103 beatdown by the LA Clippers at Staples Center, the Denver Nuggets were left reeling.
Nuggets coach Mike Malone called the team “soft.” And Nuggets guard Monte Morris said that if the team wanted to take the next step toward being a title contender, “we can throw it out the window if we ain’t going to show up in [these] games.”
While the game marked one of the Clippers’ most impressive performances of the season, it was also an eyebrow-raising defeat for the Nuggets, who entered as the No. 2 team in the Western Conference standings — one spot ahead of the Clippers.
“We were soft tonight from beginning to end,” Malone said. “They didn’t feel us on either end. They got whatever they wanted. We couldn’t run offense because they took us out of our stuff, and we just allowed them to do it for 48 minutes. They’re a good team, but I’m just very disappointed in our competitive spirit and our effort.”
Malone said the Nuggets were “awful” Friday night but went on to credit the Clippers.
“They sent a message,” he said. “They came out and hit us in the mouth and we never responded, and that’s the most disappointing thing about it. We came into this game thinking it was just going to be a standard NBA game. They approached this game like something was on the line, and you could tell a difference from the jump ball all the way until the final buzzer.”
The Nuggets have suffered eight losses this season by double digits, and all but one were on the road. But five of those losses were against top-eight conference teams.
After the game, the Nuggets did not allow media into the locker room and instead had only two players — Morris and center Nikola Jokic — speak to reporters.
Morris said that fellow Nuggets guard Will Barton gave a five-minute speech to the team in the locker room after the humiliating defeat in which he conveyed how opposing teams consider the Nuggets to be soft.
“They think if they get into us, they can disorient anything we do,” Morris said. “They did that tonight. Our offense was stagnant from [the start.] They weren’t feeling us on defense. I think going forward, these teams we’ve got to beat to be elite. If we talk about [a] championship, we can throw it out the window if we ain’t going to show up in [these] games.”
Morris added, “I feel like from [the start], they let it be known [that] they [were] going to be in our s— all night and they definitely did.”
Morris also harped on the need for Nuggets players to hold one another accountable. “Until we do that, I don’t think we’ll be ready to make that step,” he said.
Jokic, who finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, was more muted about the defeat.
“We’ve had a lot of bad losses,” Jokic said. “Maybe this is just, as you guys say, maybe a little bit more important. But it’s still not the end of the world. We’ve had a lot of losses against teams that have a worse record than us. We’ve responded well.”
But Morris pointed to the Nuggets’ experience.
“This is not the youngest team who [is] just scratching the surface,” he said. “Everybody knows [we’re] good and they get up for us. Going forward, we just got to be ready. … It ain’t the end of the day, but [it’s] definitely a wake-up call to get back right.”
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