“It was a good effort for three and a half quarters,” coach Michael Malone explained to start his post-game press conference after the Denver Nuggets defeated Toronto Raptors. “I would say it was probably one of our more complete games.”

There were quite a few positives to take away from the Denver Nuggets 129-111 annihilation of the Toronto Raptors at home in the Pepsi Center as Denver secured their fourth win in eight tries. The Nuggets offense from last year seemed to be resurrected against the Raptors as they were able to put up 129 points in the game and they had 103 points by the end of the third quarter before garbage time kicked in.

Denver also had 35 assists on the night, which makes the Nuggets one of three teams who have a game with 35 total assists. The ball was hopping again for the Nuggets and it was a welcomed sight.

The Nuggets were also able to limit the production of one of the leagues premier starting guard combinations in Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Both were held to ten shot attempts on the night, which led to 10 points for DeRozan and just nine points for Lowry. Each member of the Raptors starting back court shot just 4-10 from the field and a combined 1-6 from the free throw line, which Malone said was a point of emphasis coming into the game.

“I thought we did a really good job of defending DeMar and Kyle without fouling and limiting their free throw attempts,” Malone said post game. “It was a great game for three and a half quarters.”

All of those things are great signs but it seems that the positive takeaways from the Nuggets victory over the Raptors were not enough to dilute what was still a bad taste in Malone’s mouth.

Malone continued to revert back to talking about Denver playing “a great game for three and a half quarters”. It seemed like Malone, while happy with the win, had serious issues with how the Nuggets closed the game against the Raptors.

Even though the Nuggets put together what looked like their most complete performance of the year on both ends of the ball against the Raptors, Malone was perturbed about the lack of intensity in the last 6:12 of the game specifically, which is when the Raptors cut Denver’s lead from 36 points all the way down to 18 by the end of the game.

“Again, we gave up 40 points in the fourth quarter which is unacceptable,” Malone said.

In the last 6:12 of the Nuggets beatdown of the Raptors, Denver’s defense fell apart. The Raptors, in that six-minute stretch, shot 10-12 from the field and 5-6 from three for a whopping 29 points in six minutes. That scoring pace equates to 232 points in 48 minutes when extending that six-minute stretch out over a full game.

“I don’t give a crap what the score is or how much we are up,” Malone explained. “The defense for the last 6 minutes was embarrassing.”

It makes sense why Malone was vocally frustrated after the win when you consider Denver has virtually given away three victories already this season due to effort falling apart for stretches of time.

When Denver was in Utah to play the Jazz to start the season the Nuggets were in control for the majority of the game but fell apart in the fourth quarter as they turned the ball over 10 times in the final frame limiting the fourth quarter production to a minuscule 13 points for the Nuggets. While Denver was busy turning the ball over, the Jazz went on to score 28 points of their own and take back control of the game, take the lead, and lock in an opening night victory the Nuggets.

In Charlotte against the Hornets, the same stretch of dysfunction occurred but this time in the second quarter. The Nuggets offense fell apart as they were only able to score an abysmal 16 points in the quarter on 22.6% from the field. While the Nuggets offense continued to sputter in the second quarter it was the Hornets offense that came alive as Denver gave up 35 points to the injury-ravaged Hornets team on a whopping 70% from the field and 6-12 from three-point distance.

Most recently, it was the first quarter against the New York Knicks that doomed the Nuggets and led to another loss. Denver came out flat in the first quarter defensively and allowed the Knicks to jump out to a 24-9 lead early in the game. That run to start the game is what eventually doomed the Nuggets, who fought back but eventually lost 116-110.

Malone is demanding perfection from his team, and for good reason. With nine players on the roster 23 years-old or younger, it is important to instill that every second the game clock is running it does not matter what five-man group is on the floor.

The NBA is as talent-rich as it has ever been and most teams have the ability to go on big runs against Denver if the Nuggets take their foot off of the gas. Malone demanding complete effort for 48 minutes is the first step to upgrading from up-and-coming young roster to playoff contender.

“We are not that good of a team that can just turn it on and turn it off,” Malone reiterated. “We need to be a team that plays as close to 48 minutes as possible.