LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Nuggets coach Michael Malone is just as adept at using his microphone as the Lakers are.
In the aftermath of Denver’s Game 4 loss to the Lakers, Malone quipped he’d be going “through the proper channels” to make sure the NBA saw exactly what the Nuggets saw. It was a line ripped directly from Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who disclosed to reporters Wednesday that his team submitted plays to the league concerning LeBron James.
Malone wouldn’t say whether he felt the Lakers’ ploy had any effect on what became a difficult whistle Thursday night, but there was no hiding his frustration at the free-throw disparity. The Lakers got to the line 35 times compared to just 23 trips for the Nuggets. James and Anthony Davis went there 28 times alone to help stake Los Angeles’ 3-1 series lead.
“I think late in the game Jamal Murray attacked the basket a few times where it appeared to be contact,” Malone said, while also citing defensive breakdowns and Los Angeles’ second-chance points (25) as the primary culprits in the 114-108 loss.
“We’ll watch the film and send our clips in. We’ll reach out to the NBA and kind of make our points noted. … The NBA does a great job of listening. You hope that next game maybe some of those fouls are called.”
Even after James called for the defensive assignment on Murray in the fourth quarter, Denver’s burgeoning star kept finding his way into lane. He was met with some contact from James and an unsympathetic ear from the officials. Murray finished with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting and eight assists in 45 minutes. His star counterpart Nikola Jokic was mired in foul trouble in the fourth quarter.
As diplomatically and respectfully as possible, Murray made his case.
“They’re trying to do their job,” Murray said. “I mean, I did get fouled on a few. We could see the replay clearly. The same thing when Rudy Gobert fouled me which we lost the game for (in the first round). I got fouled. They’re going to do their part, going to try to do their job to the best of their ability. I treat them with respect any time I talk to them. You can ask any single one of them.
“Yeah, LeBron is going to go get his. But we just have to look ahead and play through it. Like I said, we’re a young team. We’re the younger team, youngest team, whatever we are. Look at where we’re at. We’re going to have to earn their respect if we’re going to want to prevail.”
Whether a more favorable whistle is waiting for Murray in Game 5 is anyone’s guess. But what’s not in question is the newfound respect James has for Murray’s meteoric rise.
“I knew it was winning time (when I called for the assignment), and Jamal had it going,” James said. “The kid is special.”