Nuggets beat Trail Blazers with Michael Malone sidelined

Denver Nuggets assistant coach David Adelman once served as a ball boy for the Portland Trail Blazers. His dad was a successful coach of the Blazers, too.

On Tuesday night, he made his acting head coaching debut against, as it just so happens, Portland. Adelman slid over a seat to the top spot on the bench with coach Michael Malone sidelined after entering the league's health and safety protocols.

"It's very coincidental. It's kind of odd," Adelman said of facing the Blazers. "It's kind of cool. But the bottom line is whoever we're playing tonight, we're trying to go get a win. I'll do the best job I can."

And that he did, as Denver topped Portland 122-113 for its 14th straight home win.

In the locker room after the game, the team dumped a bucket of cold water on Adelman to celebrate.

"It was cold. No, it was cool,'' cracked Adelman. "The guys were excited."

Adelman found out before shootaround earlier in the day that he would be stepping in for Malone, who wasn't feeling well, he said. Adelman added Malone will be in contact with the staff -- via cellphone -- and fellow assistant coach Ryan Saunders would serve as Adelman's right-hand adviser.

Last season, Adelman was in line for a similar opportunity when Malone entered health and safety protocols. But then Adelman tested positive.

"The responsibilities change," said Adelman, who may coach again Wednesday night against Minnesota. "But like I said, everything remains the same as far as our expectation of how we want to play."

Adelman's father, Rick, spent six seasons with the Blazers and guided the team to the NBA Finals on two occasions. Rick Adelman was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021. His 1,042 wins in stints with Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota rank 10th all-time among NBA coaches.

Malone has won 344 games over eight seasons with the Nuggets, which is the third-most in team history. He trails only Doug Moe (432) and George Karl (423). Malone also has a 21-27 postseason mark with Denver.

"Everyone will step up," Adelman said. "Different roles, but same expectations as if he's here. That's where Coach has been so good over the years -- there's an expectation of how we prepare, how we go about our business, and we'll try to do that for him tonight."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.