Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone highlighted his high expectations for forward Michael Porter Jr. when asked about his activity on the defensive end following Game 1 of the Nuggets' NBA Finals series against the Miami Heat.
“It's where it needs to be,” Malone said during a postgame press conference. “I think we're past the point of praising Michael when he has a good defensive game. He needs to, as does everyone else on our team. This is the NBA Finals.
“We showed one of those at halftime where they ran a pick-and-roll for Jimmy Butler. Michael tried to get under, stayed in the play and wound up blocking Jimmy from behind. Those are the plays Michael and everybody else need to play for us to win this series. It can't be ‘Look at Michael Porter. He's doing a heck of a great job.' That is his job. It's Jamal's job. It's Pope's job. Nikola. Aaron. Everybody that plays for us.”
Porter ended a 104-93 victory over the Heat with two blocks and 11 defensive rebounds. He and center Nikola Jokic helped stop a drive from Miami forward Jimmy Butler in the first quarter, giving Porter just enough time to block a floater in the paint.
Denver's defense ranks fifth among teams that made the postseason with 107.1 points allowed per game, according to ESPN. It limited Miami to 40.6% from the field and 33.3% from 3-point range, paving the path towards a Nuggets victory despite hitting 29.6% of their own 3-point attempts.
Porter's defensive efforts and all-around game earned him praise from his teammates on Wednesday.
“Yeah, he's done amazing,” guard Jamal Murray said of Porter. “Just like playing an all-around game, 12 boards, 14 points with basically one or two threes, getting to the rim, playing great defense, pursuing the ball. He's 6-10, he's doing more than just knocking down shots, and that's dangerous.”