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There was no sugarcoating this performance and Nuggets coach Michael Malone didn’t bother. He ripped his team for their effort in a Game 4 blowout loss to the Trail Blazers in the opening-round playoff series.

“Our starters were awful,” he told reporters after the series was evened at two games apiece. “I thought we had some guys that were tentative, that looked a little scared, who played soft … we’re going to have to be a lot better going home.”

Portland’s 115-95 victory continued a recent trend of the Nuggets falling behind early. They were able to rally in Game 3, but not on Saturday. The starters were ineffective, outscored 49-26. They made just 30 percent of their field-goal attempts and allowed the Trail Blazers to shoot 65 percent when they were on the court, according to ESPN.

“The urgency has to be there. Maybe this will be a wake-up call for our starting group just to play harder,” Malone said. “Good things happen when we play hard, and we didn’t play anywhere close to hard enough tonight.”

“Their starters beat us by a lot, and we didn’t respond well,” Nuggets center Nikola Jokic added. “We need to be much better.”

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