Nuggets struggling to embrace key defensive concept

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There might not be a phrase in basketball from the high school level through college and into the professional ranks that's more popular with coaches and yelled more often across gyms than K.Y.P.

It's an acronym engraved on shirts and shorts at all levels, synonymous with a team success, and the ability to Know Your Personnel when it comes to defensive assignments has never been more important than in today's NBA where the DeMarcus Cousins of the world, (who comes to Denver Friday), are jacking as many threes per game as Klay Thompson.

Where is his team in terms of K.Y.P, was a question posed to Malone at a Nuggets' practice earlier this week.

"Slightly below-average," he said. "There were games where we've done a great job of that and there were games where we've done a really bad job of that. I thought we did a bad job in Portland. Granted, they only hit five threes for the game, 33 percent, 99 points. We kept them off the glass. I think it all stems from communication too. We have so many communication breakdowns."

Denver limited Portland to 99 points, albeit on above 50 percent shooting from the field but just 33 percent from distance. But throughout Monday night's loss, Trail Blazers' shooters found themselves wide open on the perimeter far too often for Malone's liking. Denver's been solid on defense this season and ranks 16th in the league in defensive efficiency but timely defensive breakdowns often kill whatever momentum the Nuggets build up on the offensive end of the floor.

One of those breakdowns Malone referenced was this third-quarter sequence, that looks like a video game glitch, where Will Barton and Jamal Murray left Damian Lillard wide open for a three. Lillard scored just 15 points on 4-14 shooting against Denver but this key three gave Portland the momentum they needed for a second-half run.

"Trusting each other, that's the biggest thing," Barton said Thursday about the lack of communication. "There's going to be breakdowns, it's basketball. Nobody can play perfectly. But if I get beat, knowing Gary (Harris) got my back, and when Gary got my back, knowing Paul (Millsap) got his. So it's just a trickle-down effect and once we get more comfortable, I feel like we'll be even better."

So how does it get fixed?

"It's just watching the film, showing them, holding them accountable, stressing it in practice, every drill that we do. We have to communicate with each other," Malone said. "And what we always try to get them to do to talk early, loud and continuous. It can't be late. Then well, it's too late. (You) have to let that person know early what's going on. So it's just a matter of us staying on top of it and getting better at it within practice so it becomes second-nature in games."

"We're knowing our personnel better, but we can still get better," Barton said. "All we got to do is keep sticking to it, keep flying around."

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