Nikola Jokic and the whole Denver Nuggets roster have to be better at channelling their frustrations after a baffling collapse against the Boston Celtics, head coach Michael Malone has said.
The Nuggets were seemingly coasting to a ninth straight NBA win when a three-pointer from Facundo Campazzo late in the third quarter had them 79-65 in front.
But things unravelled spectacularly, with the Celtics hitting the final nine points of the third and the first six of the fourth to take the lead in the game for the first time.
The Celtics went on an astonishing 31-3 run and outscored the Nuggets 31-8 in an outstanding fourth quarter to win 105-87 against one of the league's hottest sides.
Jokic, among the leading contenders for the MVP award this season, was sat down by Malone with a little over four minutes remaining for going after the officials on back-to-back possessions before a timeout.
Malone had sympathy with his star player but said the whole team need to keep their discipline in the heat of battle.
"Regarding Nikola, he gets frustrated with the referees and what he perceives to be a lack of calls, and you understand that," Malone said.
"But that can never take you away from your duty as a basketball player. So that's something that he, myself and all of us can definitely be better at."
For his part, Jokic – who had 17, points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds – believes the arguments with the officials are just par for the course in the NBA.
"I think the whole 30 teams are complaining and whining," he said.
"We are just one of them. It's just how the game goes. They're doing their job. We need to do our job. Sometimes it's miscommunication, like arguments, of course, like in every job."
The Nuggets were playing for a sixth time in nine nights and were without Jamal Murray (knee) for a fourth straight game.
Malone again stressed the need for his team to keep their cool, but is already itching to get back into it.
"We have to be better," he said. "They turned up the heat, got into us, switched everything, and we allowed that to kill our offensive flow, and then we started complaining and whining, not getting back. Not competing.
"[But] the best thing about the NBA is we get on a plane this afternoon, go to Golden State and try to right the ship and play at a much higher level than we played today."