Grading the Week: Nuggets coach Michael Malone’s seat is so frigid it might trigger another Bomb Cyclone
Someone check the atmospheric pressure over Elitch Gardens.
After what Michael Malone and the Nuggets pulled off in the two months since Jamal Murray’s season-ending injury — among many other maladies that affected the team — the status of his head coaching seat just might trigger another Bomb Cyclone.
Michael Malone — A
Is it too early to suggest that Nuggets executive Tim Connelly offer Malone a lifetime contract?
After watching him guide Denver to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the third consecutive season — something even the great Doug Moe couldn’t pull off in the 1980s — the folks inside the Grading the Week offices are ready to draw up the paperwork.
It’s one thing to do something unprecedented in franchise history — which Malone did.
It’s another to do said unprecedented thing without the services of your starting backcourt (Murray and Will Barton) when the other guys are trotting out Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Norm Powell.
What the Nuggets have done since every talking head with a microphone and slick haircut declared their season dead in the second week of April just might be Malone’s best coaching job yet.
Every other Bubble Final Four team — the Lakers, Heat and Celtics — wilted under the mounting injuries and fatigue that was inevitable after the NBA decided to start its season just two months after finishing the previous one. The Nuggets shouldered that burden, and kept on chugging.
First, they secured the No. 3 seed with a late April run even after Murray and Barton went down. Then they took down the Blazers in six games after losing yet another key backcourt piece (PJ Dozer) right before the postseason started.
Certainly, presumptive MVP Nikola Jokic deserves a fair amount of the credit. He hasn’t missed a game all season and he solves a heck of a lot of problems. A few hiccups aside, Michael Porter Jr. has stepped up to the plate as well, as has Aaron Gordon … and Monte Morris … and Facundo Campazzo … and Austin Rivers … and you get the point.
But Malone has held this thing together with duct tape, twine and a dude who was watching NBA games from his living room couch just a few months ago.
That there was even a hint that his job might be in jeopardy after the Nuggets went down 2-1 to the Trail Blazers last weekend strikes the Grading the Week staff as amusing.
Having high expectations is nice. So is having more than 3/5 of your starting lineup.
Philipp Grubauer — A
If you had concerns about the Avalanche’s man between the pipes, it’s time to let those go.
What Grubauer did through the first six games of these Stanley Cup playoffs, including an epic standing-on-his-melon performance in Wednesday night’s Game 2 win over Vegas, is all the proof we need. The Avs have someone capable of stealing a game each series. And that’s all they need to the hoist the Cup.
Because the first line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen can win the other three with no problem.
The trio has been nothing short of spectacular to begin Colorado’s playoff run, with each logging at least 10 points apiece in the playoffs prior to Friday night’s Game 3.
We wouldn’t go so far as to suggest they might be able to fix our nation’s broken health care system. But maybe we should at least let them try.
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