The Denver Nuggets got back to work Tuesday afternoon after what Michael Malone deemed a sloppy preseason loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.

Preseason games are almost always difficult to evaluate, especially the first few games. Players are often looking to ease back into playing again prior to a long season ahead. Coaches are often looking for players to show effort, execution, and discipline immediately. That juxtaposition led to last night’s subpar showing against the Thunder that was much more closely tied to the returns of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., rather than the execution of a game plan.

It also led to Malone calling for a practice today, a rarity in today’s NBA that prioritizes rest and recovery so heavily.

“I know from me, after that game last night, in my mind I was saying ‘we’re going two hours tomorrow,'” Malone stated of his mentality following Denver’s subpar performance in a variety of areas. “[I had to] take a deep breath, be a grown ass man, and say ‘what’s best for our group?’ We have three days to get ready for Chicago. Let’s build this up, let’s not overreact.”

“It’s a preseason game.”

The Nuggets know they have a long road ahead. Michael Malone knows too. He gets antsy though, wanting the players to show the same sense of urgency he feels by making every single moment count.

That’s why he breathed a sigh of relief today after the Nuggets had a good practice.

“We have a lot of areas to improve upon. That’s what the preseason is for,” Malone shared. “I felt today’s practice, after watching a very lengthy film session, the energy and the attention to detail was pretty good today.”

Tough love for Bones Hyland

Among the disappointments from Monday night’s preseason opener was a bad night from Bones Hyland. He struggled leading the second unit, and that group had a suboptimal performance as a result.

“Unacceptable from me,” declared Bones of his performance in Monday night’s game. “I know that that’s nothing like me, so I’m going to try and learn from it and move on.”

Malone went as far as to bench Bones in the early second quarter for veteran Ish Smith. After the game, he called for better effort and intensity from the second year guard, and it appears that Bones responded well today.

“I was proud of Bones. I think he showed growth. He came in here today ready to work, ready to get better, and he owned it,” Malone shared on Tuesday. “He didn’t come in here feeling sorry for himself. That’s a big step for him.”

With so much pressure on his shoulders to lead a second unit that doesn’t have a lot of scoring and creation around him, the Nuggets know they need the best they can get from Bones. It’s important for Malone and the Nuggets coaching staff to hold him to a high standard. The Nuggets need him to be even better than he was last year to hold up in bench configurations.

Bones responded well to the criticism and shared that he likes the tough love approach from his coach:

“That’s something I always say I appreciate about coach. At the end of the day, he’s going to tell me if I’m playing good or playing bad, and that’s what you need.”

“I know coach loves me,” Bones quipped, “but at the end of the day, I want him to be tough on me, because I don’t want anything handed to me.”

The shot selection headache

As the Nuggets looks to work their chemistry back into form, it can sometimes be difficult to generate high percentage shots every time down the floor. As the starters proved last night though, sometimes it doesn’t matter. Between Murray, Porter, and two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, the Nuggets can get away with bad process shots.

Malone doesn’t want bad habits to form though, and he and the coaching staff are emphasizing more precise shot making and offense, whether the starters like it or not.

“Our goal every time is to generate an uncontested look,” declared Malone. “We’re trying to put that in their mind [that we want] mid-range discipline. We don’t want to take contested mid-range shots, especially early in the clock.”

This off-season, the Nuggets placed higher values on corner three-pointers and shots in the restricted area during pickup games: four points for every corner three, three points for every shot at the rim, just one point for mid-range shots.

Malone continued: “Now, the caveat to that is obviously, we have a player in Nikola Jokić who is not a good but great mid-range shooter. We don’t want to take that away from him.”

So, Jokić is in the clear regarding his mid-range shot attempts. Interestingly enough, Murray and Porter weren’t mentioned in that conversation despite each being strong mid-range shooters themselves.

“Just because a shot goes in doesn’t mean it’s a good shot,” Malone emphasized. “I think Michael Porter made a contested mid-range two last night; the spacing was awful, the execution was awful, and the shot went in. Poor possession, poor shot. We can get better than that.”

Porter spoke to local media last night and shared a different sentiment that some of the shots he attempted last night, namely the contested jumpers, were just a part of his game. Porter joked that the coaches would get so mad at some of the shots he attempted in his rookie year, but it doesn’t sound like the notion has seriously changed since then.

Chalk up the push and pull between Malone and Porter on his shot selection, even if it goes in, as “something to watch” this year.