The Denver Nuggets were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday night, but head coach Michael Malone had a number of positive takeaways after the Game 5 117-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
"So proud," Malone said of his team. "What more can you ask from a group? What more commitment, sacrifice, just everything in the last 82 days that our team has gone through. The history that we've made. The adversity that we've faced and never ran from, embraced it, owned it at times.
"From a pride perspective, couldn't be more proud."
The Nuggets had an incredible run during the 2020 postseason, twice overcoming a 3-1 deficit to advance in the series. They won three straight games to finish off the Utah Jazz in Round 1 and then shockingly did the same against the heavily favored Los Angeles Clippers in Round 2.
It led to the franchise's first appearance in the conference finals since 2009.
Denver once again faced a 3-1 deficit against Los Angeles, but this time the Lakers were able to finish off the series thanks to an impressive effort by LeBron James. The 16-time All-Star took over with 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists, leading both teams in each category.
Malone couldn't help but be impressed by someone he called "one of the greatest to ever do it."
"When you just step back and marvel at what LeBron is doing at this stage of his career," he said. "How he continues to find ways to improve and get better and take whatever team he's on to new heights. That defines his greatness."
LeBron is heading to the NBA Finals for the 10th time, competing for three different teams in the process.
The Nuggets are left looking ahead to next season, but Malone believes the squad will be back and ready to contend for a title behind 23-year-old Jamal Murray and 25-year-old Nikola Jokic.
"I'm encouraged by the growth, maturity and development of our players, and our young guys are only going to get better," he added.