Nuggets coach Mike Malone said he will stick with starting Will Barton despite the forward’s struggles in Denver’s first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs.

Barton shot 1-for-10 and missed all six of his 3-point attempts in the Nuggets’ 114-105 Game 2 victory in Denver. As the series, tied 1-1, moves to San Antonio for the next two games, Barton is 1-for-11 from the 3 line overall.

“We are going to stay with the same starting group,” Malone told reporters Wednesday. “You go out there with what got you here, and if guys are struggling, then you look to get guys into the game. … Obviously, [Barton has] struggled to play in two of these games, especially with shooting the ball.

“But kind of like with Jamal [Murray] last night, if I just yank him out of the lineup, well, that’s not who I am,” Malone added. “And I think it would be an overreaction. It would look like I’m panicking.”

Barton, who played in just 43 games in the regular season because of hip surgery, averaging 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds, scored 15 points in the series opener but shot 6-for-15 overall, including 1-for-5 from 3-point range. As Barton scored only three points in Game 2, Denver fans booed him following some of his misses.

After Game 2, Malone and Nuggets star center Nikola Jokic said, unsolicited, they were bothered by the fans’ reaction.

“Our fans have been great the whole year,” Malone said. “I really felt bad when they started booing Will Barton. That is not going to help him make a shot. I understand the emotions of the game. Again, our fans have been awesome this whole year, but support our guys. When they are going through it, a tough time, they can use some love.”

Jokic defended Barton, pointing out that he is still finding his way back after his injury.

“I’m actually going to say something: I didn’t like that the crowd and fans booed [Barton],” Jokic said. “I think he did a lot of things, not just for this organization … he was injured, he is finding his rhythm. When he is back, he will be the old ‘Thrill.'”

Malone argued that he will stick with Barton just like he did with Murray, who was 8-for-23 and missed all six 3-point attempts in Game 1. Murray missed his first eight shots and had just three points in the first three quarters of Game 2, before erupting for 21 points in the fourth quarter to help the Nuggets even the series. Indeed, Murray hit eight straight shots in the fourth at one point.

“Will is a tough kid,” Malone said. “He’s got a lot of confidence in himself. Think about a lot of the shots he got; they were great looks. I mean Will Barton was 3-of-8 from the foul line [in this series]. That is very unlike Will Barton. He just has to see the ball go through the net, kind of like Jamal did; he’s got to make sure he’s taking the right shots, and good shots, which he did, open 3 after open 3.

“And I think Will is at his best when he’s attacking and getting to the basket and he’s also playmaking,” Malone added. “… I expect a much improved performance from Will tomorrow, and I think all his teammates are behind him, as is the coaching staff.”



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