Nuggets’ Bones Hyland is “such an important part” to Denver even amid growing pains


Bones Hyland’s blank stare belied the confidence pulsating through his skinny frame.

After Hyland buried his third 3-pointer within an 82-second span Friday night, Miami called a timeout to stem the fire. Hyland held his shooting stroke to burnish the bucket. He stared into the crowd, aware that his audacity had ignited them.

Hyland was one of eight Nuggets to reach double-figures in Friday’s 124-119 comeback win over the Heat. His 16 points off the bench paced the reserves, while his five 3-pointers led the entire team. Amid a collectively underwhelming approach to possession, Hyland accounted for six of Denver’s 20 turnovers. There were riveting, arresting moments to his night paired with a handful of reckless ones.

Such is the case with a second-year guard who’s both teeming with potential and struggling through the growing pains of responsibility in the NBA. On Wednesday, while Jamal Murray sat due to knee maintenance, Hyland got the invaluable experience of feeling fourth-quarter pressure.

“Being in the game, at the end, hostile environment,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “You can’t replicate that anywhere else.”

Though the Nuggets folded once the Kings ratcheted their pressure up, Hyland finished with 20 points, 11 assists, and one turnover. But that level of intensity will only aid Hyland’s development come the postseason. Two nights later, he was the catalyst as Denver’s bench outscored Miami’s 50-44.

“Bones is such an important part to this team,” Malone said. “He really is. When Bones is playing well, the impact he has, not only on that second unit, but the starters, is (huge).”

When Hyland is knocking down 30-foot 3-pointers or dicing apart defenses, he’s not only running his unit, but he’s buying invaluable time for the starters to rest. If the second unit — made up of Hyland, Bruce Brown, Vlatko Cancar, DeAndre Jordan and a staggered starter on Friday — can consistently produce, the Nuggets are almost impenetrable. That’s because rarely, if ever, will they lose the Nikola Jokic minutes.

In that sense and due to his unique skillset, Hyland is a bridge. If he’s orchestrating and playmaking within the offense, and competing and engaging on the defense, Hyland becomes the linchpin of Denver’s most vulnerable unit.

“Once I’m being myself out there, being Bizzy, playing with confidence, I think I give so much confidence within the team,” he said. “I ignite that spark.”

It’s a crucial role and one that had been weighing him down due to the inconsistencies of that unit. Some nights Zeke Nnaji will man the frontcourt. On other nights, like against the Heat, it will be Jordan. And still, on other nights, Christian Braun or Davon Reed will find themselves in the rotation. Injuries, like Jeff Green’s fractured hand, have complicated Malone’s substitution patterns.


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