Bones Hyland seizes chance, Nuggets grab first preseason win over Suns – The Denver Post


Nuggets coach Michael Malone couldn’t understand what he was seeing.

A strong September bled into a promising training camp, and all signs pointed to a team that would enter the regular season on a wave of positive momentum.

Then it dawned on him. Through roughly two weeks of preseason, his team was practicing harder than it was playing. At practice this week, he presented his theory to his team.

“They all agreed,” Malone said.

Malone deduced that entering the exhibition against Phoenix — a 107-105 win — their two worst days of camp thus far were the two exhibition losses his team had suffered. Malone couldn’t say the same about his team’s effort on Monday. They were scrappy and they fought.

No one embodied that more than Ish Smith, whose late jumper broke a 105-105 tie with 8.9 seconds left.

The only constant from their two earlier losses had been an underwhelming effort and a punctured transition defense. Even though most of Denver’s firepower — Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — remained on the bench for injury maintenance or rest, there were still a few non-negotiables Malone demanded from his guys.

Here’s what he got against Phoenix.

Hyland’s chance: Murray emerged from the bowels of Ball Arena roughly an hour before tip-off with giant bags of ice on both knees. He eventually shed those and went through an encouraging pre-game workout. After tweaking his hamstring in Chicago, there was no need for him to play against Phoenix. But his pregame work was promising nonetheless.

His absence gave way to Hyland, who stepped in to handle starting point guard duties. His matchup, of course, was future Hall of Famer Chris Paul. There’s probably immense value in matching up the precocious second-year guard with Paul. Hyland took advantage.

He was composed, pouring in 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting in the first half, to go along with five rebounds and three assists. With a confident streak that rarely wavers, Hyland buried two 3-pointers early, including one roughly from Arvada. His first-half defense — one steal and two blocks — reinforced his offseason commitment to the less heralded side of basketball.

His gamesmanship, in the form of going at Paul and Devin Booker, wasn’t a surprise, either.

The only downside to his night came in the third quarter when he exited the game with a left lower leg sprain. The injury bug has already gotten to the Nuggets.

Porter’s play: The lone regular starter to play Monday night, Porter was underwhelming in his featured role. His shot selection was questionable, and on a couple occasions, his body language got the best of him after missed looks.

It’s an area he’s struggled with in the past and knows must be better. He’s been vocal about not letting his offensive struggles bleed into other areas of his game. Like everything at this stage of his return, it’s a work in progress.

Old friend Torrey Craig, one of Porter’s offseason workout partners, harassed him into a 2-of-11 shooting night.

On the positive side, Monday was a chance to expound on the budding partnership between Porter and Hyland. After the Chicago game, both said they wanted to play together more, with Hyland’s quickness potentially opening up shooting windows for Porter. It’s an important relationship should the Nuggets find themselves down both Murray and Jokic, as they did vs. the Suns.


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