Magic Johnson sounds off on 2 coaches that have stood out in NBA playoffs

Tony Nguyen | Denver Nuggets
May 16, 2024

The second round of the ongoing NBA Playoffs have exhibited some of the best basketball this season, with back-and-forth battles across the four pairings making for intriguing finishes. Between the eight coaches vying for the NBA title, basketball legend Magic Johnson said Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks and Michael Malone of the Denver Nuggets stood out and placed their teams in prime position to advance to the conference finals.

As of writing, the Knicks and Nuggets have vaulted to 3-2 series leads over the Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively. The Knicks took Game 5 via a 121-91 decision, while the Nuggets secured a 112-97 win to overturn a 0-2 deficit earlier in their series.

Magic Johnson commends Tom Thibodeau, Michael Malone adjustments to push Knicks, Nuggets ahead

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Magic Johnson commended both coaches in a post on social network X, formerly Twitter, noting how these tacticians have been steps ahead of the competition to get ahead.

“[New York] Knicks Coach Tom Thibodeau and Denver Nuggets Coach Michael Malone have stood out among the rest in the NBA Playoffs, because of their adjustments before and during the games,” said Johnson. “I’ve been blown away by how they put their players in the best position to dominate and win!”

Johnson is no stranger to giving outspoken takes on the NBA, previously praising the Knicks’ Isaiah Hartenstein for giving the Pacers a hard time on the boards in Game 5. He also praised the Timberwolves for their rousing Game 1 victory over the Nuggets, before the defending champions turned the tide later in the series and moved within a win from advancing to the next round.

Tom Thibodeau’s heavy reliance on main guys, surprising rise of Alec Burks key in lead vs. Pacers

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Despite criticism on his short rotations and heavy minutes for starters, Tom Thibodeau has found success with the New York Knicks in making his top guys such as Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, OG Anunoby, and Donte DiVincenzo to take the most minutes on the floor in the playoffs. But Thibodeau struck a balance when he started instituting lighter practices that allows his players to play longer and put injury risk at a minimum.

In addition, Alec Burks has provided the much needed spark for the Knicks after falling out of the rotation since the trade deadline. The 12-year veteran appeared in four games this postseason, averaging 13.0 points on 51.7% shooting with 3.5 rebounds on 17.1 minutes on the floor. In Game 5, Burks had 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting with five rebounds in the win.

Michael Malone’s unorthodox motivational method brings Nuggets back from the dead

For the Nuggets, Michael Malone took an unconventional route in pushing the reigning champions back from the brink of elimination to being one game away from a repeat appearance in the Western Conference finals.

Facing an 0-2 deficit after Game 2, Malone refused to sound the alarm early and calmly said the team needed to act and play like the defending champions and they will be “just fine.” Prior to Game 3, Malone reportedly played back clips of NBA analysts and observers counting out the Nuggets, which may have lit a fire from under the team and resulted in three consecutive victories.