Frustrated Michael Porter Jr. on quiet second half in Nuggets’ Game 4 loss to Clippers: “I just didn’t touch the ball”

A frustrated Michael Porter Jr. said his quiet second half in Game 4 had nothing to do with the Clippers’ defense.

“I just didn’t touch the ball,” he said. “They didn’t do anything different.”

Porter had 15 points in the first half, but none in the second half of Denver’s 96-85 loss to the Clippers, which set them back 3-1 in the series. He took just two shots in more than 17 minutes on the court over the third and fourth quarters.

Asked what he can do to get himself more involved, Porter put the onus on Denver coach Michael Malone.

“I mean, that’s really up to the play calls, that’s really up to the coaches, who they want to put the ball in whose hands,” Porter said. “We kept going to (Nikola) Jokic and ‘Mal (Murray), and they’re two amazing players, you can never get mad at that. But I just think to beat that team, we gotta get more players involved, we gotta move the ball a little bit better. We can’t be predictable against that team.”

Jokic and Murray took a combined 20 shots in the second half, connecting on nine of them. Most of their second-half damage came after the Clippers had built a 16-point lead with a 21-5 run in the third quarter.

Though Porter is still a rookie, he said that if Malone is going to play him consistent minutes in the playoffs, he feels like he deserves a voice in the offense.

“If I’m gonna be out there on the floor playing a lot of minutes, I think I should voice that (concern),” Porter said. “I’ll probably talk to the coaches, just tell them what I see being out there on the floor. Just letting them know, ‘Look, they know what we’re doing.’ Like, we gotta swing the ball. We’ve got a lot of players who can play basketball and score. We gotta get some more guys involved.”

Porter, who was benched in the first round against Utah because of his defense, has had promising moments on both sides of the court since then. But the dilemma for Malone, which has been there the entire season, was always whether he could trust his defense. Malone showed a fair amount of faith in him Wednesday night, playing him 34 minutes while Paul Millsap played just 14.

When asked about Porter, Malone said he needed to find his shots the same way he found them in the first half, when his 15 points on six shots gave the Nuggets a huge boost.

“Well, get them the same way you got them in the first half,” Malone said. “The ball found him. We play an offense where the ball moves, you trust the pass, you trust your teammates. In that second half, obviously, I think they keyed in on him. They’re a really good defensive team. They switched a lot. They blew things up. They were physical with us, took us out of our offense at times. He did some good things, 15 and 6, but yeah, he’s another guy that we have to find ways to get open looks for.”

In the aftermath of the loss, Malone said there were a lot of frustrated guys in the locker room. Porter attributed that frustration to the Nuggets not playing up to their potential.

“Because we’re beating ourselves right now,” Porter said. “We held that team under 100 points tonight and I think we had like 83. We’re too good of a team to be scoring that few points. We feel like the last couple of games we’ve just been beating ourselves. Give them credit. They’ve come in with a good game plan, but that’s not a good feeling, when you feel like you’re beating yourself.”