Mike Malone benches Nikola Jokic in the fourth quarter for a lack of effort

Dallas Mavericks v Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets suffered a potentially damaging defeat in their pursuit of a playoff spot as they were beaten 118-107 by the lowly Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Fortunately for the Nuggets, they remain in the eighth spot in the west as the Los Angeles Clippers were beaten at home by the New Orleans Pelicans and were unable to take advantage and leapfrog them.

But the loss to the 20-45 Mavs was disappointing for Denver and their head coach Mike Malone was particularly angered by the performance he saw from his team.

Recently, he made a case for talented young big man Nikola Jokic to be in the MVP conversation this season and referred to him as one of the best players in the league.

Against Dallas, however, Malone didn't feel the Serbian was performing at an acceptable level and left him out for the entire fourth quarter as a result.

Speaking after the game, the Nuggets coach lamented the lack of effort from the 23-year-old and a number of his starting players on the night.

“Tonight’s loss does not sit well with me at all,” Malone said, per Gina Mizell of the Denver Post. “There’s just an underlying current to our team right now that I’m just not happy about …

Brooklyn Nets v Denver Nuggets

"Each guy that is called upon to play as a starter or off of the bench has a responsibility to the man next to him to go out there and give it his all.

"It’s one thing to miss shots and to make mistakes. It’s another thing to go out there and just kind of go through the motions.

“Right now, if you’re not going to go out there and give it your all, you’re not going to play. We don’t owe anybody anything. What each player owes is to go out there and play as hard as you can.”

Denver Nuggets v Boston Celtics

Jokic played just 25 minutes in the contest and finished with only four points, nine rebounds, five assists, and two steals.

Several of those stats look good but his points total is way below his season average of 16.9.

Mason Plumlee and Trey Lyles saw extended minutes at his expense but it's not something he spoke to Malone about post-game and explained that he understood the decision to sit him for the entire fourth period.

Brooklyn Nets v Denver Nuggets

"I don’t know what to say ... I think that’s a normal thing. It’s a coach’s decision," Jokic said.

The center and the rest of his Denver teammates will have an immediate chance to bounce back as they hit the floor again tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who they beat resoundingly on the road on Saturday.

Coach Malone will certainly hope that his strong words got through to his players and prompt them to give a response.

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