The Denver Nuggets returned to practice on Friday as they continue to wait to see whom they will face in the NBA Finals.
The Nuggets have not played since sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals on Monday, meaning they will have nine off-days heading into Game 1 of the NBA Finals, which are scheduled for June 1 no matter when the Eastern Conference finals are decided between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.
“It’s impossible to keep your rhythm if you’re not playing games,” Denver coach Michael Malone said Friday after practice. “You can do whatever you want in practice, but there’s no way you can replicate playing an NBA playoff game.”
The Nuggets were off on Tuesday. Some players came in for an optional workout day on Wednesday and did conditioning on Thursday before participating in practice on Friday. They are scheduled to practice on Saturday.
“For us, my biggest concern is the rhythm but more importantly conditioning,” Malone said. “You’re playing every other day for so long, and now all of a sudden you have an eight-, nine-, 10-day break, whatever it is. I wanted to make sure we got up and down, conditioned.”
Despite not knowing their Finals opponent, the Nuggets are sharpening things more mentally than physically to stay on top of their game.
“Just our awareness, especially we need to lock in on practices for just the detail stuff,” point guard Jamal Murray said of what the Nuggets are trying to work on during this break. “Let’s be on time, let’s not have any turnovers, that we’re doing scripts, just kind of the simple things so we’re not getting sloppy just because we are where we are. I think it’s more of those mental awareness days. We know our bodies are going to be right by that time June 1, so just making sure our mental is staying sharp and locked in throughout these days.”
Murray said the Nuggets are using this break to rest up and get healthier, to nurse any lingering injuries in order to be ready to go for Game 1 next week. But they want to maintain urgency as well after playing some of their best basketball against the Lakers.
“We take the rest,” Murray said. “But you don’t want to pick up bad habits throughout this week. Staying sharp, whatever it is. If we’ve got to flip the switch and lock in for a drill or two, let me do that. Just be able to stay locked in.
“We don’t want to get relaxed. I think that’s the biggest thing. We don’t want to relax and just wait. We want to stay sharp.”