DENVER (AP) — Nuggets point guard Isaiah Thomas never checked into Tuesday’s Nuggets-Timberwolves game, as coach Michael Malone informed the 30-year-old that he has shortened the rotation.
“I’ll keep that conversation between I.T. and myself,” Malone said. “Not an easy conversation, but that’s my job.”
Thomas, who was the only active player that didn’t log any minutes Tuesday, had appeared in each of Denver’s previous nine games, averaging 15.6 minutes, 8.6 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.8 turnovers off the bench. He missed all of the team’s games up until Feb. 13 due to recovery from hip surgery.
Malone said he would like the team to “find a rhythm,” likely with an eight-man rotation headed into the playoffs.
“It’s never about Isaiah or any individual,” he said. “It’s about what’s best for our team. I made the decision to shorten the rotation, only play eight guys in the first quarter, and I’m going to continue to do that for the time being.”
Against the Timberwolves, Paul Millsap finished with 23 points — including a buzzer-beater from half-court to end the third quarter — and Nikola Jokic added 18 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists to help the Nuggets snap a two-game slide.
The 44-22 group is hanging on to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, assembling a 5-4 record since the All-Star break.
“We’re focused on the bigger picture right now,” Mason Plumlee said. “There’s a chance to do something special.”
At practice Monday, Malone had a heart-to-heart with his squad. He asked them what they wanted to achieve as they march toward their first postseason appearance since 2012-13 — simply settle for getting in or challenge for the top seed. At 28-6, the Nuggets have the best home record in the Western Conference.
“I didn’t give them a chance (to answer),” Malone said. “I said I’m tired of talking. All we do is talk, talk, talk — let’s start doing.”
The message was taken to heart.
“We need to just get back to playing together, screening for each other, playing for each other, passing,” Jokic said. “Just to play for someone else.”