Nuggets at disadvantage without fans at Ball Arena, coach Michael Malone says
Last season, the Nuggets were 26-11 at home. The campaign before, they were 34-7. And the prior season? The Nuggets were 31-10 in Denver.
This season, under entirely different, COVID-induced circumstances, they entered Tuesday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers only 8-6 at Ball Arena and 8-8 on the road.
Coming off a road trip where the Nuggets played two games in front of fans – Cleveland on Friday, Atlanta on Sunday – coach Michael Malone has a keen sense of the difference when fans are in the stands. And as one of 16 teams yet to allow fans in their arena due to COVID restrictions, Malone sees the Nuggets at a disadvantage.
“When you play a team like Cleveland or Atlanta, and they have actual fans in the building, and you see more and more teams are going to start allowing fans, yes, I do think it is a competitive advantage,” Malone said.
“We’re so used to, obviously our games, there’s nobody there,” he said. “It is sometimes eerily silent in our building, even when you have all that pumped-in fake noise, you look around and there’s no one there.”
Amid Jamal Murray’s career-high 50 point night in Cleveland on Friday, there were numerous times during his fourth-quarter scoring spree where he screamed and motioned to the crowd. After the game, he admitted it played a part in his energy.
“I know that teams feed off the energy of their crowd,” Malone said. “We’ve done it for years here in Denver, at the Pepsi Center, now Ball Arena, where our fans have given us a great lift to go out and play. That’s why we’ve been voted one of the tougher places to play in the NBA. That’s not just the altitude, that’s also the fans packing the house and making it loud and creating a tough atmosphere to play in.”
Currently, just 14 of the 30 NBA teams are allowing fans inside the arena. The restrictions, based on state-by-state regulations and then NBA guidelines, have yielded roughly 2,000-3,000 fans at certain games.
“When you go from no fans to an arena with some fans, definitely a little bit different, and I hope that at some point, we can get some fans back in here because they have been a big part of our success,” Malone said.