Nuggets: Coach Michael Malone em­pha­sizes need to im­prove on de­fense de­spite Sun­day’s win.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christo­pher Dempsey Christo­pher Dempsey: cdempsey@den­ver­post.com or @ dempsey­post

It’s al­ways prefer­able to give the les­son via a win.

Such as this one: The Nuggets beat In­di­ana 129- 126 on Sun­day. De­fen­sively, how­ever, the Nuggets left much to be de­sired as In­di­ana shot 58.5 per­cent from the field.

“I’m thrilled that we won,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “But we can­not win al­low­ing Mi­ami to come in here and shoot 50 per­cent, al­low­ing In­di­ana to come in and shoot 59 per­cent. In the long run, that’s los­ing bas­ket­ball.”

Half­way through the Nuggets’ sea­son- long, eight- game home­s­tand, they are play­ing win­ning bas­ket­ball with three vic­to­ries in their past four games.

But this week will tell how much they’ve learned. For in­stance, the Nuggets fol­lowed a big win over Golden State with a com­pla­cent loss to Mi­ami. But they bounced back from that to beat East pow­er­house In­di­ana.

“The play­ers de­serve all the credit for the fact that we’re go­ing out there and do­ing that,” Malone said. “The fact that we’re 3- 1 on this home­s­tand, I think is great. By no means are we sat­is­fied. We’ve been in­con­sis­tent this year, whether it’s game to game or quar­ter to quar­ter. That’s been our big­gest prob­lem in my mind.

“We’ve been un­able to play 48 min­utes some nights. We play hard ev­ery night. I never say we’re not play­ing hard. Some nights, we don’t play as smart as we need to or have as much dis­ci­pline.”

Asked whether the team views it­self as one that can take down any in the NBA, rookie point guard Em­manuel Mu­diay didn’t hes­i­tate.

“I feel like that all the time,” he said. “I think we’re get­ting con­fi­dence in each other and the fact that we’re be­liev­ing in each other and mak­ing plays for each other. That’s the main thing: We’re get­ting wins, and we’re try­ing to make the play­offs for sure.”

Said Malone: “I have to up­lift. I have to bring guys to­gether. Be­cause it’s easy when you’re los­ing or hav­ing a bad first half, to step back. C’mon, we’ve got to stay to­gether. The only way we’re go­ing to win is to un­der­stand why we are los­ing and clean up those ar­eas so we can get the win.”

The Nuggets’ home­s­tand con­tin­ues with Ok­la­homa City and fin­ishes with games against Mem­phis, Detroit and At­lanta.

“We’ve just got to con­tinue to work to­gether,” guard Randy Foye said.

David Zalubowski, The As­so­ci­ated Press

In­di­ana Pac­ers for­ward Solomon Hill shoots over Nuggets cen­ter Jof­frey Lau­vergne on Sun­day. In­di­ana shot 58.5 per­cent from the field but still lost 129- 126.

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