Michael Malone makes angry statement to officials, Nuggets immediately reap benefits

May 10, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone
May 10, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone / Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

While game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals ended up being a fairly comprehensive beatdown by the Nuggets, but the game was close and competitive for much of the first half. In the opening minute of the second quarter, the Wolves took a 30-28 lead on a Rudy Gobert dunk after it appeared Gobert cleared space by elbowing Justin Holiday to the ground.

Michael Malone furious at officials

Michael Malone was understandably furious at the no-call, and the overall physicality being permitted in the game. Malone lost it on the officials and was hit with a technical foul, looking as angry as he has in a while (at least since game 2).

The technical free throw gave Minnesota a three-point lead, but the effect of Malone’s complaining almost immediately created a positive impact for the Nuggets. The Timberwolves were called for three offensive fouls on drives within the next few minutes of the game.

Malone's technical seemed to sway the refs

These plays and calls got the Ball Arena crowd fired up, gained momentum for the Nuggets, and helped kickstart a run that gave the Nuggets a lead going into the half, one they would never relinquish. 

The officiating in this series has been a major talking point in this series and the amount of physicality allowed has changed the flow of a few games. The overall consistency in calls from game to game has been questionable at best.

Questionable officiating all series

Beyond that, there have been on-court incidents, from Malone storming onto the court to argue to Jamal Murray throwing a towel and heating pad onto the court to Rudy Gobert flashing a money sign at the refs after disagreeing with a call.

Murray and Gobert were both fined for their actions, but nothing has gone further than that. Some around the league were upset that Murray was not suspended for a game for his outburst. 

It will be interesting to watch how game 6 in Minnesota is officiated; if the refs allow the Wolves to be more physical with their defense like in game 2, or if they call a tighter game that seems to favor the Nuggets. Either way, Malone’s anger helped his team win a pivotal game 5.