MIAMI — Michael Porter Jr. is long past the point where compliments need to be spoon-fed or hurt feelings coddled.
At this point, tied 1-1 in the NBA Finals as the series shifts to Miami ahead of Wednesday’s Game 3, he knows any personal agendas are immaterial or, even worse, distractions.
“It’s just about winning, bro,” Porter told The Post. “At this point, where we’re at, we don’t have time for dudes to be in their feelings.”
Least of all Porter, who played only 5 minutes, 39 seconds, of the fourth quarter in Game 2 after his 3-point stroke abandoned him, and his defensive lapses, whether via miscommunications or effort, left the Nuggets vulnerable from the perimeter. Through two games, Porter’s shot just 3 for 17 from the 3-point line. Defensively, he was involved in several inexcusable breakdowns as Miami torched Denver from the 3-point line.
Before Tuesday’s practice, the Nuggets held a frank film session where head coach Michael Malone encouraged his players to talk through their mistakes and take responsibility for their assignments.
“We all spoke up because (Malone) would have each individual player run through certain plays, tell the team what we see, and then if someone saw something different,” Porter said before his voice trailed off. “… It was a very vocal film session.”
Asked specifically about accountability, Porter said it’s essential at this stage of the season.
“You definitely gotta own it,” he said. “You can’t be sensitive. Me personally, I know I gotta play better. If my teammates tell me that, I’m not going to be sensitive. If I tell that to someone else, like, ‘Yo, you gotta tell me if we need to work on switches.’ They’re not going to be sensitive.”
They better not be. It shouldn’t matter that Porter played just 26 minutes in their Game 2 loss, one less than Bruce Brown, Denver’s super-sub who’s proven to be more trustworthy defensively than Porter. Not even a max contract should preclude Porter from being benched if he’s out of rhythm.
Malone showed his team 17 clips from Game 2 — he called them “discipline” clips — that underscored how communication, focus or effort was responsible for their breakdowns. Those 17 clips, Malone said, accounted for 40 points.
“That, to me, is staggering,” Malone said.
Asked about Porter, Malone placed the blame more broadly on his team.
“How can Michael help himself? How can everybody else help themselves? Communicate, be disciplined. It starts with the defense,” he said.
Aside from being comfortable with criticism in the aftermath of the loss, Porter took ownership of his play in general. Malone didn’t specifically use Porter’s name when he questioned his team’s effort after their first home loss of the playoffs, but Porter acted as if he’d heard the message nonetheless.
“I think intensity and energy wasn’t where it needed to be from me personally or really the team as a whole,” he said. “We can talk about the mistakes that we had defensively, but really, it’s about intensity.
“… They are doing some actions that are hard to guard,” Porter continued. “So, our communication has to be on point but really, I think that’s the main thing is, I think communication, because those defensive lapses can make it look like we are not playing hard because they get open shots but really, we are just — we just need to be locked in to what we need to be doing, the coverages.”
Defensively, the examples were glaring. Offensively, Porter knows he needs to help himself. When his 3-pointer isn’t falling, there are other areas he can exploit.
“I just have to play with energy and effort and I’ll fall into some easy buckets off of cuts, off of transition,” he said.
That pretty jumper, the one that can only stay on the floor if the requisite defensive concentration is there? Porter vows it’ll be there moving forward.
“I’m not going to keep missing that many threes,” he said.
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