DENVER -- With a week off since they last played, the Denver Nuggets are thrilled that their long wait to find out who they play in the NBA Finals ends Monday night.
"It's definitely been a long wait," forward Michael Porter Jr. said after Nuggets practice Monday. "It seems like we haven't played a game in forever, so we just been trying to stay in shape, stay in the gym, and just wait and see."
The Nuggets have been off since eliminating the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on May 22. They've been working on conditioning and trying to go as hard as they can to simulate playoff tempo when they are on the court.
But it wasn't until Monday's practice that coach Michael Malone said his team worked on things that both the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat do just to be as prepared as possible.?Game 1 of the Finals will be played Thursday night.
"It's definitely been a challenge," Malone said of trying to keep his team in playoff rhythm. "... All the practices leading into [Sunday's off day] were about us with a real heavy emphasis on conditioning, pace, purpose and just working on all the things that we need to. And then today we started working on things that both Miami and Boston [do] that we need to be prepared for both offensively and defensively.
"The best thing is we're going to finally know who we play, and that gives us Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday morning to get ready for [our opponent in] Game 1. But I give our guys credit, they have been locked in. The energy's been very good."
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who won a championship with the Lakers in the 2020 bubble, has been trying to keep his team focused on the goal despite the long layoff.
"I'm surprised, our focus is tremendous," Caldwell-Pope said. "Even though we had this long period of time off, everybody still has the same mindset. They haven't faded away. Everybody still has the same energy, they're just ready to play. Feeling a little antsy. I am just ready to get out there."
Malone echoed those sentiments.
"I know I speak for everybody in our locker room," he said. "We just can't wait for tonight's game to be over to finally have some clarity. And so when we wake up tomorrow morning, we know who we're playing, we know who we're preparing for and we can kind of turn the page and really focus in on that."