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Nuggets coach Michael Malone determined not to let Damian Lillard get ‘open space’ like he did vs. Thunder

Michael Malone, Damian Lillard

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” read a wise quote from George Santayana, one Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has been determined to live by in this second-round series against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Malone watched how Lillard obliterated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round with his 3-point shooting and nifty ball-handling antics, and he has been quick to make the necessary adjustments after letting the Blazers’ star player go off for 39 points in Game 1:

“He had a lot of open space in that series, we felt, and that’s not a knock on OKC. We just wanted to be a little bit better,” said Malone, according to ESPN’s Royce Young. “We didn’t want him getting 33 a night.”

Lillard indeed averaged a whopping 33 points against Russell Westbrook and company, and now he has yet to reach the 30-point mark since that explosive Game 1.

Malone has suffocated Lillard with outside pressure and putting his defense actively around the perimeter, ensuring he has fewer looks from deep.

The result? Lillard has shot 5-of-23 from deep since Game 1, and an all-around 9-of-35 on triples (25.7%) for the series.

The Nuggets now have the home-court advantage back after a tough win on Sunday, playing two of their next three games at home as this series reaches the end of the line.