'We've been on cruise control' - Malone laments Nuggets three-game losing run
Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone says his side have been in "cruise control" after Sunday's 122-120 loss to the Brooklyn Nets marked three straight defeats.
The Nuggets remain clear atop the West with a 46-22 record, with the second-placed Sacramento Kings back at 40-26, inviting a level of complacency.
Denver were unable to win despite reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic managing a 35-point triple-double with 20 rebounds and 11 assists.
"We've been on cruise control for a really long time, making it look easy," Malone told reporters. "We've spoilt a lot of people, like we're going to win our last 15 games, we're great. It doesn’t work like that.
"What do you think [2022 NBA champions] Golden State's record was after the All-Star break last year. It was 11-12. It happens.
"Is it ideal? Hell, no. We don’t want to lose three in a row and now we're going one a very demanding and difficult five-game road trip.
"I think the most important for me as head coach is the delicate balance of coaching, holding guys accountable, teaching but also not panicking.
"Losing sucks, we all realise that, but let's stay together, stay poised and find a way to put 48 minutes together."
Denver have blown double-digit leads in all of their past three defeats, with Malone lamenting their inability to play a full four quarters.
The Nets took control of Sunday's game on the back of a 37-18 third quarter, with Malone pointing to similar periods in their previous two games.
"Everybody in that third quarter played poorly," Malone said. "Looking at the last game and looking at tonight, one quarter has cost us the game.
"San Antonio, it was the second quarter, we gave up 42 points. Tonight it was the third quarter, 37-18. In this league, against a team that's fifth in the East, you can't play three quarters and expect to win."
The Nuggets were not helped by Jamal Murray's poor shooting night, finishing five-of-19 from the field for his 16 points. Murray sat out the fourth quarter with left knee soreness.
"I haven’t had a chance to speak with Jamal or our trainers yet," Malone said. "We'll see how it is."