DENVER — Head coach Michael Malone and the Denver Nuggets had their hopes of repeating as NBA champions squashed after losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

The loss was incredibly frustrating for the Nuggets considering, at one point, they had a 20-point lead over the Timberwolves. In his postgame press conference, Malone was visibly upset following the loss. Bennett Durando of the Denver Post asked Malone how hard it was to absorb a loss after going ahead by 20. Malone, who was clearly still angry over the outcome of the game, fired back at Durando.

“The season’s over. That’s what’s hard,” said Malone. “F*ck being up by 20… Stupid ass questions.”

Durando took it in stride however, and knew Malone wasn't angry at him. Rather he was angry at the season-ending loss.

Nuggets season ends in frustrating fashion

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone calls out in the first quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves in game seven of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Malone would eventually calm down. His answers were no longer stemming from anger, and he became more reflective and appreciative of the effort his players put in. As defending champions, there were high expectations set on the Nuggets since the start of the season. In the NBA it is rare and rather difficult to win back-to-back championships. The Nuggets were fully aware of the odds, but they never let it get them down.

“We knew it was hard. It was something I talked to our team about at training camp,” Malone said on the Nuggets attempt at going back-to-back. “The last team to do it was the 2017-18 Warriors. With the rules being what they are now, I think it's going to become even harder and harder to repeat as champions.”

While the season-ending loss was upsetting, Malone attempted to ease the pain by putting the Nuggets' situation into perspective.

“I consider the San Antonio Spurs to be a dynasty, and they never won back-to-back,” Malone said. “Losing. The hurt of it, the pain of it, it helped us win our first championship. Can we use this [season] as motivation moving forward?”

The Nuggets are confident their window isn't closing, though. According to Malone, just because the Nuggets didn't go back-to-back as champions, doesn't mean they won't ever win it again.

“I’m very proud of the entire team,” Malone said. “All 18 players. Everything they sacrificed since Labor Day. I’m very proud and thankful for the coaching staff and for the ownership group that we have, and this is just a momentary delay. Failure is not fatal. We’ll be back.”

Heading into free agency in the offseason, the Nuggets won't have much room to drop serious money for a high-profile player. That isn't a problem necessarily, as the Nuggets' main core of players will remain intact. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson accepting or declining their player options will be one of the more interesting headlines of the Nuggets offseason. So as it stands, it's looking like a relatively tame offseason. The Nuggets could choose to spice it up a bit though if they decide to explore some trades to help fill in some missing pieces.

Regardless, the Nuggets will be looking to rest up and reload for another championship run next season.