Denver Nuggets train while waiting for their Finals opponent

Jamal Murray on the long break: ‘You don’t want to be relaxed. I think that’s the biggest one – we don’t want to relax and just wait.’

DENVER (AP) — Denver Nuggets guard Bruce Brown has been taking advantage of the long break before the start of the 2023 NBA Finals to work on his game — his golf game.

“The first day of golf I played really well,” Brown said. “The second day was terrible.”

On Friday, it was back to Brown’s work hitting the shots he does best – jumpers – as the Nuggets returned to the court for some light practice. Game 1 of the franchise’s first appearance in the NBA Finals is still almost a week away (June 1st, 8:30 am ET) and their opponent is yet to be determined, with Boston and Miami heading into Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Finals series.

The rest was certainly welcome. Rust, however, becomes a concern.

Michael Malone: ​​’We’ve always done a good job of identifying guys who fit that culture’

“It’s impossible to keep pace if you’re not playing,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “You can do whatever you want in practice, but there’s no way you can replicate the game in an NBA playoff game.”

The Nuggets celebrated their victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on the plane ride home. It bought them a day off on Tuesday and an optional day on Wednesday (although some players showed up). On Thursday there were conditioning drills and individual drills before refitting on Friday. The intensity will pick up closer to the start of the series on Thursday — and once they know who they’re up against (the Heat lead 3-2 as the series shifts to Miami on Saturday).

“Right now, as I’ve told our players, this is about us,” Malone said. “We have to reinforce who we are and address the areas where we weren’t good enough or the areas we can clean up.”

Before the break, Nikola Jokic, guard Jamal Murray and the Nuggets were also on top, going 12-3 in the postseason. Murray’s biggest advice – keep practicing how they expect to play.

“Don’t pick up bad habits during this week,” Murray said. “Just being able to be locked up. You don’t want to be relaxed. I think that’s the biggest one – we don’t want to relax and just wait. We want to stay sharp.”

Guard Jamal Murray breaks through the Nuggets defense

Murray took the opportunity on Thursday night to tune into the Stanley Cup playoffs. He watched the green team (his description of the Dallas Stars) defeat the white team (his description of the Vegas Golden Knights) in overtime during Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. He said the competition taught an important lesson – play with intensity throughout the game, especially on defense.

“Our defense is being played with intention,” Murray said. “We’ve all been on a rope. When we need a stop, we all lock up, even if we don’t get it, we lock up and try possession by possession. I think that’s crucial at this stage.”

Same with maintaining a balance between hoops and home life. Malone said his family helped keep him grounded.

“I can’t go home and be in a Game 7 mentality because my wife and kids would leave me,” Malone said. “I have to force myself to take a deep breath and remind myself that I am a husband, I am a father and I am part of my family.”

Bruce Brown gives an insight into how his game has improved this year.

This weekend, Malone might even play pickleball – just to take his mind off a tough series to come. It could be Jayson Tatum and the Celtics. Or Jimmy Butler and the Heat, the eighth seed that made the playoffs via the play-in tournament.

For Brown, no matter who it is, the game will be a reunion of sorts. He is from Boston and went to college at the University of Miami.

“But if we went to Boston, that would be a lot of tickets,” Brown joked. “So it would be very expensive.”

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