Jamal Murray tosses heat pack, Michael Malone screams at officials as Nuggets frustrated in Game 2

DENVER — Jamal Murray lost his cool on the bench and tossed a heat pack onto the court.

It was the Denver Nuggets’ frustration boiling over.

Irritated by no-calls and irate over missed calls, the Nuggets melted down in a 106-80 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Monday night. The Wolves turned up the pressure and the defending NBA champions lost their temper, trailing by 32 points in a game that got out of hand before halftime.

Denver trails the Timberwolves 2-0 as their second-round playoff series shifts to Minnesota. The Nuggets are searching for the rhythm that allowed them to go 16-4 in the postseason during last year’s title run. They’ve struggled against a hungry Minnesota squad playing relentless defense.

“A loss like this is tough,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “You feel embarrassed. You feel exposed. So what are you going to do about it? … Have the courage to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I did not do my job tonight,’ and be better next game.”

Sitting on the bench in the second quarter, Murray tossed a heat pack toward the court after a layup by Karl-Anthony Towns. There wasn’t a call on Murray, but a warning from the public address announcer to the crowd not to throw objects onto the floor.

In a pool report, official Marc Davis said the crew wasn’t aware the object came from the bench. Had they known, “we could have reviewed it under the hostile act trigger. The penalty would have been a technical foul,” he said.

Murray could be looking at a fine. He was not available to speak with reporters after the game.

The play didn’t sit well with Timberwolves coach Chris Finch.

We tried to impress upon them that there’s probably not many fans in the building that have a heat pack,” said Finch, whose team has won six straight playoff games, including a sweep of Phoenix in the first round. “So, it probably had to come from the bench, which they found logical. But yeah, it’s inexcusable and dangerous and, you know, I’m sure it was just a mistake and an oversight. I’m sure there was nothing intentional about the officiating at all. But certainly can’t allow it to happen.”

Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves forced Denver into 34.9% shooting and countless turnovers. Murray was 3 of 18 from the floor.

The Nuggets have a few days to regroup, with Game 3 scheduled for Friday.

“The body language of our guys is not where I think it needs to be,” Malone said. “We just got beat up in our building. We got embarrassed in front of our fans.”

Denver’s opening half was filled with missed shots and aggravation. Malone was so upset at a no-call after Towns bulldozed through Murray for a layup that he ran onto the court and began yelling at Davis. That sort of demonstration in the regular season would’ve drawn Malone at least one technical and possibly an ejection. But there was no whistle.

“Although Coach Malone was visibly upset about both his team and the officials, I did not hear him say anything unsportsmanlike that warranted a technical foul,” Davis said in the pool report.

Malone said he was just defending his player.

“I owe it to Jamal Murray, or anybody else in that situation, to voice my opinion, to voice my concern and my disagreement,” Malone explained. “That team over there in Minnesota, I have to give them credit. They’re very good team. They came in here and won two games. Tonight, they ran us off the floor.”

Minnesota came at the Nuggets in waves and didn’t give them a moment of peace. The Timberwolves were missing center Rudy Gobert, who was back in Minneapolis, where his partner gave birth early Monday.

“They played really good defense,” said Nikola Jokic, who had 16 points and 16 rebounds. “They know what they’re doing and it’s hard to score.”


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

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